Beloved Tanenbaum Community, a Formula for Justice – Thank you Dr. King. The right to freedom of religion includes the right to be free from religion: "Public schools are run by the government. The 8th U.S. Or if you’re not using a textbook? Because teachers are considered agents of the state, they may not attempt to convert students in religious matters. Whether we have tons of bulletin board space, or none at all, as teachers we’re expected to proudly display student work for all to see. There are several ways in which children can be involved. It is up to you which one you choose. Notes, Supreme Court decisions, etc. Yes, students have the right to share their beliefs, pray, evangelize, read Scripture, and invite students to participate in such activities during free time so long as they do not (1) substantially interfere with the operation of the school or (2) infringe on the rights of other students. This Religious Liberty Protection Kit is a simple but high-quality tool for helping you guard the most precious freedom you or anyone in our society has: religious liberty, our first liberty in the Bill of Rights. If a teacher assigned an art project with a Christmas theme, a student would be allowed to depict a manger scene, just as the student could draw Santa … Despite the Supreme Court ruling, many students and families associate them with religions and religious holidays that not all members of the school community observe or celebrate. In the case before the Supreme Court, the student could either call out his/her score or walk to the teacher’s desk and reveal it in confidence, though by that stage the score was known at least to the one other student who did the grading. Public schools teachers have the right to run student religious clubs on site immediately after the school day ends, a federal appeals court has ruled. Consider the Christmas tree. In this case, that balance could be achieved by clearly labeling the work as student art, communicating that the contents of the display are not the views of the school while honoring the religious identity of the student. Although early in the school year, the teacher might do much of the display planning and caretaking, as the year progresses, students can take an increasingly active role in displaying their work. Absolutely. 3. 1 2 The fact that a display is donated by a private group or paid for by private funds will not affect whether it is permissible under the Establishment Clause. You may not try to convert a student to your religious views or teach that your beliefs are the only correct ones. And in this classroom, students share their work, learning from each other. Religious Symbols in Public Places The issue: What rules should govern the placement of religious symbols in public places? Make sure your teaching reflects your classroom diversity. “When the district asked Freshwater to remove his Bible from his desk, it was not asking him to cease a meaningless activity. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding can help. Introduction. They can simply choose pieces of their own work that they give to the teacher to assemble into a display. Educators can’t display religious symbols in public schools, but that does not mean religious symbols can never appear in the classroom. The artwork consisted of a large mural painted in a corner of the school's auditorium by a student in 1965 as part of the school's plan to decorate the arena with original artwork of students. Religion in teaching has been allowed as long as it is objective. Make sure your teaching reflects your classroom diversity. Teaching about Religion in Public Schools Is it constitutional to teach about religion? Displaying student work sends several important messages: As teachers, we value what students do. Can teachers or other school employees participate in student religious clubs? Just as students can bring other favorite books they are reading to school, they can also bring their Bibles or other religious books and read them during free time. This law indicates that where a "limited open forum" is made available to students it is unlawful to deny equal access or discriminate against any students who wish to conduct … Indeed no teacher with any sense is heading down the road of content discrimination. Because teachers are considered agents of the state, they may not attempt to convert students in religious matters. The first webinar in the series, What’s law got to do with it? Students may still feel left out, even if you teach about religion within legal parameters and use religious symbols appropriately. Their permanent display in public schools communicates an endorsement for Christianity—just as hanging a Star of David in a classroom could make it appear that the school favors Judaism. The 8th U.S. The Bible can be taught as literature, so the reading of the story should be allowed as long as it is not a required assignment. We all behave differently in different settings. Teachers are held to the policies of their employers and must consider those policies first if student work is called into question. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Visit the links below to see blogs on the other commonly asked questions about religion and public schools. Teachers can, though, wear non-obtrusive religious jewelry such as a cross or Star of David. Make sure your teaching reflects your classroom diversity. No. That is a clear violation of the Constitution. Can a teacher in a public school display a personal Bible on a desk? In those cases, try using realia, such as pictures from newspapers or magazines. Think carefully when decorating for winter holidays. student religious expression could still be attributed to the state,18 although a minority of the Justices, now led by Justice Scalia, all but dispute this possibility.19 With the presumption of invalidity now reversed, the burden of demonstrating government attribution (or encouragement, endorsement, support, etc.) It is likely that many courts would allow a school to prohibit teachers’ religious garb in order to maintain religious neutrality. Keeping Christ in America’s Public Schools, Seminole: Christian Law Association. The Supreme Court has held that the Christmas tree is a secular symbol of the holiday season; therefore, the display of a Christmas tree in the school lobby, temporarily, does not violate the Establishment Clause. Religious music and art can be included as part of classroom instruction, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to make the connection to academic content clear, to refrain from and confront any form of proselyting or denigration of the religion or the adherents of that religion, and to include art representing multiple religious and secular worldviews. Many educators struggle with this question, afraid of tripping over the lines that protect our freedom of religion and separate church and state. If the teacher covers over the religious symbol on the student’s work, is the student being denied his right to free exercise? The Ten Commandments, for example, are unarguably religious in nature. Celebrate, no. Can a teacher talk about her faith with her students? http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/establishment-clause, http://www.tolerance.org/blog/you-can-teach-about-religion-public-school, http://www.tolerance.org/critical-practices, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/free-exercise-clause, http://www.tolerance.org/blog/silence-golden-giving-students-choice-mat…, Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. FFRF said they had learned about the classroom displays from an anonymous student and were acting on that student's behalf. Listen to this podcast from the radio program Law Talk Live “Making Sense of Religion in America’s Public Schools” from Dec. 28, 2013. (Practices outlined in Teaching Tolerance’s Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education can help teachers create classroom environments that reflect diversity and support students’ religious identities.). “The Free Exercise Clause protected Freshwater’s conduct as to his personal Bible,” she wrote. The Bible can be taught as literature, so the reading of the story should be allowed as long as it is not a required assignment. Teaching students the differences between their home, school, and community settings can help them switch to appropriate behavior for each context. What Religious Studies Teaches You. The development and use of these presidential guidelines were not and are not. Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment are often referred to as the Constitution’s “religion clauses” and—in certain scenarios—may seem to contradict each other. A Hanukkah menorah has also been determined to be a secular symbol and does not violate the Establishment Clause when displayed temporarily. Students gain a great deal of ownership from this, so it’s important to show off their work. What is the difference between a moment of silence and quiet reflection? The question of “display” versus instructional use can be especially complex in art and music classes. Many educators struggle with this question, afraid of tripping over the lines that protect our freedom of religion and separate church and state. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can be interpreted in this case, and help further address whether there would be an issue in displaying this student’s work because of the religious concern. Explain to students that an evaluation of their work will be based on their performance in a number of main areas: Religious Messages: Schools may not permanently display religious messages like the Ten Commandments. While still contested in some areas, permanent displays of religious symbols on public school property violate current interpretations of the Establishment Clause. https://tanenbaum.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/TanenbaumLogos_CMYK-Long-Red-Copy-300x39.png, Myanmar seeks views on religious conversion bill: Top 5 stories, Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Religious Works of Historical and Artistic Significance. While still contested in some areas, permanent displays of religious symbols on public school property violate current interpretations of the Establishment Clause. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project. Their display could marginalize non-Christian and non-Jewish students and be counter-productive to the positive school climate we work to establish. Use symbols as instructional aids, not as permanent display or decoration. But does that answer the question … Although early in the school year, the teacher might do much of the display planning and caretaking, as the year progresses, students can take an increasingly active role in displaying their work. Strategically Engaging Religious Peacebuilders, Tanenbaum’s Religious Diversity Leadership Summits. A teacher can also show support by volunteering to serve as a faculty sponsor for student-led Christian clubs. In the 1960s’ school prayer cases (that prompt-ed rulings against state-sponsored school prayer and Bible reading), the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that public school education may … Bookmark What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? At the same time, you are not allowed to inhibit the expression of religion either. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can be interpreted in this case, and help further address whether there would be an issue in displaying this student’s work because of the religious concern. The courts may view such garb as creating a potential establishment-clause problem, particularly at the elementary school level. They may, however, display religious symbols in teaching about religion, as long as they are used as teaching aids on a temporary basis as part of an academic program. 3. Teaching about religion and referencing religion when teaching other academic subjects presents many fine lines educators must maneuver—but they’re important and necessary lines to navigate. For example, does displaying student artwork that includes a religious symbol in a common area of the school violate the Establishment Clause? Their permanent display in public schools communicates an endorsement for Christianity—just as hanging a Star of David in a classroom could make it appear that the school favors Judaism. Educators can’t display religious symbols in public schools, but that does not mean religious symbols can never appear in the classroom. (and the accompanying after-session pack), provided instructional tools and strategies to ensure teaching about religion is constitutionally sound and academically responsible. No. Teach about, yes. Instructional aids, in this context, are objects referenced during instruction to help students understand a particular religious heritage. We’ll begin by looking at religion as academic content and address each of the remaining questions in subsequent posts. freedom and the freedom to worship the religion of their choice. Religion as Academic Content. But does that answer the question about religious symbols? Educators have the responsibility to strike a balance between the two clauses, remaining within the legal parameters for honoring students’ right to free expression while avoiding messages or displays that favor one religion over another or that favor religion over non-religion. Religious diversity is the coexistence of more than one religion in the same setting. Wicht is the senior manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance. Activity Two: Investigating the issue of religion in the public schools . Another example might be a Muslim prayer rug to illustrate the Islamic practice of Salah, or a poster about the Crusades in a history classroom depicting people holding crosses. A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center ©1991-2020. When a teacher who works for the state speaks to a class, the teacher represents the school and the school board. Religious music and art can be included as part of classroom instruction, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to make the connection to academic content clear, to refrain from and confront any form of proselyting or denigration of the religion or the adherents of that religion, and to include art representing multiple religious and secular worldviews. “When the district asked Freshwater to remove his Bible from his desk, it was not asking him to cease a meaningless activity. For example, Michealangelo's mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is considered one of the greatest works of art ever created, and reflects the changing understanding of the power of art, perspective, and anatomy. We’ve teamed up to bring educators a series of five webinars about religious diversity in the classroom. Can teachers display religious symbols in the classroom? Educators have the responsibility to strike a balance between the two clauses, remaining within the legal parameters for honoring students’ right to free expression while avoiding messages or displays that favor one religion over another or that favor religion over non-religion. Schools can place some restrictions on what students can wear, but they can't single out religious clothing. Teaching the role of religion in the history of the United States has been allowed as well. Teaching about religion and referencing religion when teaching other academic subjects presents many fine lines educators must maneuver—but they’re important and necessary lines to navigate. The teacher may ask the students to report their own scores. • Student’s free speech rights: Students are permitted to express religious beliefs in their schoolwork, and teachers may not reward or penalize students based solely on their choice to include religious themes or content. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. The first webinar in the series, What’s law got to do with it? Would you like to print the images in this article? Can I teach students about Christmas and Hanukah? In this case, that balance could be achieved by clearly labeling the work as student art, communicating that the contents of the display are not the views of the school while honoring the religious identity of the student. Stone v. Graham (1980). If you want to get into teaching, you will need to have a minimum of two weeks' experience working in a school with children of the age you want to teach. Students can: Wear shirts, pants, necklaces, bracelets, and other articles of clothing that display a religious symbol (i.e., cross) or religious message (including a Bible verse) as long as they meet the school’s dress code. As they were working, several students experienced difficulties in the planning stage, including the student in the midst of this firestorm. What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? Can teachers display religious symbols in the classroom? At Focus on the Family, we received many questions like these during our nationwide religious-freedom event for students— Bring Your Bible to School Day on Oct. 6— as well as in response to a blog I contributed for ERLC on students’ rights. • What is the difference between a moment of silence and quiet reflection? There are several ways in which children can be involved. When learning about comparative religions, does your Buddhist student see herself in the instruction and class objectives as clearly as her Pentecostal classmate does? Can students express their beliefs about religion in classroom assignments or at school-sponsored events? Wicht is the senior manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance. We know the courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that public schools cannot promote religious or antireligious beliefs, yet we know that teachers can teach about religion as long as (a) the content is tied to academic objectives and (b) teachers do not attempt to indoctrinate students to a certain religious belief or nonbelief. Science Teacher Cannot Display Religious Material in Classroom ... and that he did not display his personal Bible to his students. Another law directly related to religion and schools is the Equal Access Act, which ensures that student religious activities are given the same right of access to school facilities as comparable non-religious student groups. One student, chooses Jesus as their hero, and draws a picture of the Last Supper. Student work displays: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. For Educators. Yes. As a teacher, you can prepare students to accept all types of diversity, including religion. "Teachers should strive to conduct their classes in an inclusive manner so that students can participate fully without compromising their own personal beliefs," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert to Superintendent Kane. The assignment will be displayed in the classroom. So when is it OK? "Teachers should strive to conduct their classes in an inclusive manner so that students can participate fully without compromising their own personal beliefs," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert to Superintendent Kane. Their display could marginalize non-Christian and non-Jewish students and be counter-productive to the positive school climate we work to establish. But does that answer the question about religious symbols? None of the examples they offer of "conduct impairing your functioning as a teacher" are similar to what happened in Smithtown. “The Free Exercise Clause protected Freshwater’s conduct as to his personal Bible,” she wrote. 1. Even so, public schools should exercise caution in choosing to put out these symbols. These are distinct religious practices and are considered “establishing a religion.” Students’ Rights. This page includes materials relating to the the religious speech rights of students. FFRF said they had learned about the classroom displays from an anonymous student and were acting on that student's behalf. They can simply choose pieces of their own work that they give to the teacher to assemble into a display. Consider the Christmas tree. Teachers can, though, wear non-obtrusive religious jewelry such as a cross or Star of David. Can a teacher talk about her faith with her students? RE : Religious Education Display. The Supreme Court has held that the Christmas tree is a secular symbol of the holiday season; therefore, the display of a Christmas tree in the school lobby, temporarily, does not violate the Establishment Clause. The question of “display” versus instructional use can be especially complex in art and music classes. This means that they can teach about the influences of religion in history, literature, and philosophy- they can't promote religious beliefs or practices as a part of the curriculum. Teaching the role of religion in the history of the United States has been allowed as well. Schools may display this artwork and discuss religion's influence on art, architecture, or history. Information… We have included two different sized booklets for printing to suit your display needs. Therefore, they must obey the First Amendment. The assignment will be displayed in the classroom. –Gibbs, David C., Jr., and David C. Gibbs III (2008). This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. In the case before the Supreme Court, the student could either call out his/her score or walk to the teacher’s desk and reveal it in confidence, though by that stage the score was known at least to the one other student who did the grading. Religion as Academic Content. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Practices outlined in Teaching Tolerance’s Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education can help teachers create classroom environments that reflect diversity and support students’ religious identities.). Science Teacher Cannot Display Religious Material in Classroom ... and that he did not display his personal Bible to his students. Religious symbols such as crosses, creches and menorahs may be used as teaching aids in the classroom provided that the symbols are displayed as examples of the cultural and religious heritage of the holiday, and are temporary in nature. Instructional aids, in this context, are objects referenced during instruction to help students understand a particular religious heritage. Inside this kit, you will find real, helpful facts and legal information regarding your religious rights as a student or teacher. What is the difference between a moment of silence and quiet reflection. Can a teacher in a public school display a personal Bible on a desk? Teaching of evolution: In Epperson v. The Ten Commandments could, however, be temporarily displayed in a comparative literature classroom as an instructional aid in a lesson on the Bible as a literary source for other works. However, if you use social media to comment about students, school or other work-related matters, or you use it to engage in what might be considered conduct impairing your functioning as a teacher, the First Amendment may not protect you." isolated activities. If you're thinking about work in religious ministry, talk to local spiritual leaders and get involved in the life of your religious community to find out more about what's involved. Teaching about religion is essential to the creation of respectful learning environments that adequately prepare students for an increasingly diverse and connected world. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. [link: To continue, log into your Teaching Tolerance account. Teachers who wish to pray or engage in other group religious activities must do so outside of the presence of students. This Religious Liberty Protection Kit is a simple but high-quality tool for helping you guard the most precious freedom you or anyone in our society has: religious liberty, our first liberty in the Bill of Rights. would rest with the challenger to the religious activity. Yes, the teacher can display the students act work, however; it will have to be taken down when the lesson is over. Inside this kit, you will find real, helpful facts and legal information regarding your religious rights as a student or teacher. RE : Religious Education Display. • What does religious content look like in an academic setting? Can a teacher wear religious garb to school, provided the teacher does not proselytize to the students? The Ten Commandments, for example, are unarguably religious in nature. When learning about comparative religions, does your Buddhist student see herself in the instruction and class objectives as clearly as her Pentecostal classmate does? What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? Furthermore, consider this simple fact: Students will look at their own work more frequently than they will look at commercial materials. We’ll begin by looking at religion as academic content and address each of the remaining questions in subsequent posts. Can teachers or other school employees participate in student religious clubs? The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a Tennessee student who argued that her junior high school English teacher unfairly discriminated against her when the teacher … We know the courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that public schools cannot promote religious or antireligious beliefs, yet we know that teachers can teach about religion as long as (a) the content is tied to academic objectives and (b) teachers do not attempt to indoctrinate students to a certain religious belief or nonbelief. isolated activities. The Thanksgiving posters are history so they should be permitted as long as they were not disruptive. Perhaps the best way teachers can be supportive is to recognize and allow students’ free-speech and religious freedom activities. Think carefully when decorating for winter holidays. Visit the links below to see blogs on the other commonly asked questions about religion and public schools. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her, but also on the entire class. What does religious content look like in an academic setting? Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding can help. Under the First Amendment's freedom of religion guarantee, public schools may not promote religion, but they must allow students to practice their faith. The development and use of these presidential guidelines were not and are not. When a teacher who works for the state speaks to a class, the teacher represents the school and the school board. School-sponsored displays of religious symbols, texts or artwork on school property are impermissible unless a display is integrated into an appropriate secular curriculum. We know the courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that public schools cannot promote religious or antireligious beliefs, yet we know that teachers can teach about religion as long as (a) the content is tied to academic objectives and (b) teachers do not attempt to indoctrinate students to a certain religious belief or nonbelief. What does religious content look like in an academic setting? Information… We have included two different sized booklets for printing to suit your display needs. You may display symbols of religious holidays as part of your lesson, provided you teach about multiple religious traditions and do not endorse any particular one. Religion in teaching has been allowed as long as it is objective. I have a real story of the problems this can cause. This can be difficult to do fairly and sensitively, especially when we have so much other content to teach as it is–that’s why so many teachers just tape some … Even so, public schools should exercise caution in choosing to put out these symbols. Probably not. It is up to you which one you choose. Furthermore, consider this simple fact: Students will look at their own work more frequently than they will look at commercial materials. The question of “display” versus instructional use can be especially complex in art and music classes. If the teacher covers over the religious symbol on the student’s work, is the student being denied his right to free exercise? Much of the world's great art involves religious themes and imagery. Teach students to match their behaviors to the setting. “I tell them what I believe in,” says teacher Kirk H. “I see it as a personal fact, and therefore okay. But what if your textbook doesn’t have any good pictures? With older students, you can have them predict what a chapter will be about based on the pictures from the opening page. This is their classroom as much as ours. The courts may view such garb as creating a potential establishment-clause problem, particularly at the elementary school level. Is bringing religious symbols into public school classrooms ever OK? Public schools teachers have the right to run student religious clubs on site immediately after the school day ends, a federal appeals court has ruled. A Hanukkah menorah has also been determined to be a secular symbol and does not violate the Establishment Clause when displayed temporarily. When learning about comparative religions, does your Buddhist student … More on realia later in the classroom cases, try using realia such. Real story of the school and the freedom to worship the religion their. Religious content look like in an academic setting basis as other schoolwork placement religious! And non-Jewish students and be counter-productive to the positive school climate we work establish... All types of diversity, including religion children can be especially complex art! Teamed up to you which one you choose are the only correct ones her. A real story of the remaining questions in subsequent posts materials relating to creation! Asked Freshwater to remove the reference to the creation of respectful learning environments that adequately prepare students report... Facts ” sheet explaining students ’ rights post. that includes a religious symbol in a common area the! Student 's behalf students express their beliefs about religion is constitutionally sound and academically responsible in student religious?. Of respectful learning environments that adequately prepare students to report their own work more frequently than they will look commercial! The problems this can cause have them predict what a chapter will be about based on the.. To serve as a student to your religious rights as a faculty sponsor for student-led Christian clubs an! Continue, log into your teaching Tolerance and the accompanying after-session pack ), provided the teacher does not the... And in this context, are objects referenced during instruction to help understand. Prepare students to report their own work that they give to the positive school climate we work to.! Own work that they can simply choose pieces of their own work that they give to positive! Proselytize to the setting bringing religious symbols can never appear in the planning,. At official ceremonies Peacebuilders, Tanenbaum ’ s when teachers try to convert a student or teacher on property... Information… we have included two different sized booklets for printing to suit your display needs world 's great art religious! Students were making remarks about it pictures from the opening page display religious can! 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Into public school property violate current interpretations of the remaining questions in subsequent posts two: the. Property violate current interpretations of the Last Supper display ” versus instructional can... Choosing to put out these symbols and learning at teaching Tolerance ’ religious garb in order to maintain neutrality! The Free Exercise Clause protected Freshwater ’ s important to show off work! For each context sense is heading down the road of content discrimination sized booklets for printing to suit your needs.