Thursday, April 03, 2008

Religion in Public Schools: The Wrong and Right of It

Below the Beltway scorns a lawsuit, which (as FoxNews reports)
demand[s] that a popular European history teacher at California’s Capistrano Valley High School be fired for what they say were anti-Christian remarks he made in the classroom....

[Chad] Farnan recorded his teacher telling students in class: “What country has the highest murder rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rape rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rate of church attendance? The South!”
Scorn is the wrong reaction. If employees of public schools are forbidden, as they are, to proselytize for religion (or to allow students to do so through voluntary activities that might somehow be related to school), then employees of public schools, by the same token, should be forbidden to proselytize against religion. And that is evidently what the "popular" teacher did.

Classical Values, on the other hand, has it right. First, the relevant bits from another FoxNews story:
A Tomah [Wisconsin] High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference....

According to the lawsuit, the student's art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of love" in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students' rights.

Jackson told the boy, his stepfather and his pastor at a meeting a week later that religious expression could be legally censored in class assignments. Millin stated at the meeting the cross in the drawing also infringed on other students' rights.

Here's what Classical Values has to say about that:
This is a public school, and the state is not supposed to take positions on religion. It would be one thing had the school told students that they must depict or display images of the cross, but here a student acted on his own, and in a constitutionally protected manner.