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A Patriotic Right to Say 'God' in the Classroom? (ACLJ enters the fray)
CNS News ^ | October 26, 2001 | Michael Betsch

Posted on 10/27/2001 7:03:37 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner

A Patriotic Right to Say 'God' in the Classroom?
By Michael Betsch
CNSNews.com Editorial Assistant
October 26, 2001

(CNSNews.com) - Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, more of America's public schools are invoking the name of God in their patriotic displays. However, signs featuring the slogan "God Bless America" and recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance that contain the phrase "one nation, under God" may be divisive and degrading, according to some civil rights groups.

The intermingling of patriotism and religion in recent weeks has caused confusion about what type of speech is permissible in public schools, said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

After all, he noted, nobody expected to see members of Congress singing "God Bless America" on the staircase of the nation's Capitol.

According to Sekulow, the ACLJ was bombarded with questions from confused school board members across the country. Questions focused on the posting of the motto, "In God We Trust," the use of the phrase "God Bless America" on school signs, and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

In response, the ACLJ Thursday overnighted a letter to state school superintendents in all 50 states, outlining what it sees as the constitutional protections afforded to religious speech in public schools.

Sekulow says the ACLJ is prepared to lend advice and counter any legal battle that a civil rights organization may wage against a given school. Its legal staff specializes in federal constitutional law, including the First Amendment's "establishment of religion" and free speech clauses as well as federal civil rights law.

There is growing support for the right to use religion in patriotic phrases. ACLJ's online "Patriotic Expression Of Religious Faith Petition" has attracted more than 40,000 electronic signatures since it was launched less than 2 weeks ago, said ACLJ spokesperson Gene Kapp.

In its petition, the ACLJ promises signatories that it will "defend your right to free speech and will stand with you to keep 'God Bless America' posted, and preserve the rights of your students to say the Pledge." The petition also urges educators to be "strong at this critical moment, and show the students entrusted to you that America can be one nation, under God, and indivisible."

But according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), school children are at an "impressionable age," and therefore it is the role of the parents, not school officials, to "bear the responsibility" of teaching their children religion.

And while AU advises against using the events of Sept. 11 as an "excuse" to ignore Supreme Court rulings on religion in public education, the ACLJ fires back with several instances of Supreme Court rulings that allow the mention of God in patriotic speech.

"As long as student participation in the recitation of the pledge is not mandatory, the practice is entirely permissible," wrote Sekulow. "Any person having a religious or other objection to the recitation of the pledge need not participate."

"Therefore," Sekulow noted, "if your school district displays a "God Bless America" or "In God We Trust" sign and/or merely allows the recitation of the pledge as one of the alternatives for engaging in patriotic exercises, there will be no constitutional violation."

So how does AU cope with the example set for school children by President Bush's declaration of a National Day of Prayer on Sept. 14? An October 24 AU statement advises government officials to refrain from asserting that prayer and religious worship are "somehow the natural, logical or expected" reaction to the tragic events.

But the AU reminds citizens, including public school administrators, that "millions of Americans do not do not believe in God at all, are agnostic or embrace humanistic principles."

In order to display respect for the religious beliefs of all Americans, AU suggests citizens embrace the "diversity of opinion on matters of theology and politics" of all non-Christian faiths.

Yet Sekulow believes recent calls for patriotism and the inclusion of God in speech are "something that's going to be with this country for a long time." He added that prior to the terrorist attacks this was lost, but "I think we've recaptured something here."

However, AU warns that God-inclusive patriotic speech can "make any citizen feel like an outsider on account of religious belief or lack thereof."

AU makes clear that it does not aim to extinguish America's new-found sense of pride, but desires to protect those offended by the inclusion of God in patriotic speech. As such, the civil rights organization suggests using "more inclusive" slogans such as "United We Stand" over the "divisive" yet popular, "God Bless America."

Sekulow says this is just an example of civil rights groups trying to "squelch" the use of patriotic phrases. He further vowed to challenge attempts by groups such as AU, noting that he is already working on six individual public-school-oriented cases similar in intent to AU's.

AU is steadfast in facing such challenges by Sekulow, maintaining that terms including "In God We Trust" and "God Bless America" promote religious messages or activities. Further, AU warns, such patriotic speech may cause some citizens to "feel like second-class citizens."

Calling for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to church-state separation and not turn their backs on it, AU notes that terrorists dislike America for its official policy of government neutrality toward religion.

"They want a theocracy where one faith is mandated by the government," AU commented. "It would be highly ironic if our response to this threat was to lower our own wall of separation between church and state," the statement concluded.

Sekulow holds that it is "hardly likely" that patriotic expressions that include reference to God present a threat to the separation of church and state "greater than the study and performance of religious songs and hymns associated with Christmas (or other) observances."



TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 10/27/2001 7:03:38 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: Miss Marple; oldngray; lysander13135; Chairman_December_19th_Society; OneidaM; Guenevere...
flag
2 posted on 10/27/2001 7:06:48 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: Singapore_Yank
WOW..good read...thanks for the Ping!!!
3 posted on 10/27/2001 7:10:38 AM PDT by Neets
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To: OneidaM
Your welcome, OM. All God-fearing Americans are welcome here. I think Jay Sekulow is a hero for his fight for religious freedom.
4 posted on 10/27/2001 7:14:08 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: Singapore_Yank
While the ACLU busies itself removing "God bless America" signs from the public schools, they never make any effort to chastise people who proselytize for Wicca or other strange cults. They are simply anti-Christianity.

I am glad to see that opposition to their bully tactics exists. They have made a lot of headway by threatening expensive lawsuits, which many school districts cannot afford.

5 posted on 10/27/2001 7:15:38 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: Singapore_Yank
BTTT.....Thanks!
6 posted on 10/27/2001 7:19:00 AM PDT by Guenevere
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To: Miss Marple
Yes, I think there's no question they are anti-Christian, no matter how much they deny it and try to point out evidence to the contrary. Kind of like Peter, Dan, and Tom trying to claim, with a straight face, that they are not politically biased.
7 posted on 10/27/2001 7:21:08 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: illstillbe
How did I ever forget to flag you, ISB?
8 posted on 10/27/2001 7:26:48 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: dixie sass; usconservative; chesty_puller; smallstuff; sunshine; pocat
Ping for a good read
9 posted on 10/27/2001 7:27:00 AM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK
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To: Singapore_Yank
The intermingling of patriotism and religion in recent weeks has caused confusion about what type of speech is permissible

I may not be exactly verbatim, but I seem to remember "congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." I am pretty sure that this means that the ACLU/AU can go stick their "humanistic" principles up the ungodly...well, you get the idea.

10 posted on 10/27/2001 7:29:40 AM PDT by gas_dr
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To: Singapore_Yank
[The terrorists] "want a theocracy where one faith is mandated by the government"

We've got it. The public school-mandated faith is humanism/liberalism. LIBERALISM IS A RELIGION. The best defense is a good offense--start a campaign to get the religion known as LIBERALISM out of the schools.

11 posted on 10/27/2001 7:37:26 AM PDT by spacealien
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To: ATOMIC_PUNK
Thanks, PUNK.
12 posted on 10/27/2001 7:51:48 AM PDT by pocat
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To: gas_dr
Appealing to the First Amendment is only logical in this case. And public schools are the perfect place for the rights of that amendment to be asserted. That amendment was not designed to protect free speech in private homes. It's intended to protect free speech in public.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get these ACLU types. How in the heck am I "establishing" a religion if I am a teacher, an administrator or even a student and sayiing "God bless America"? I thought the establishment of a religion is a heck of a lot harder than that.

13 posted on 10/27/2001 7:53:33 AM PDT by Mr. Mulliner
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To: Singapore_Yank
This country had better wake up and get back to the basics. MAJORITY RULES. I'm sick and tired of a couple of weirdo's bringing down the whole darn system just because they have their "rights". The majority have rights too and they outnumber the very few who are offended because GOD is in the classroom.

Majority rules, majority rules, majority rules....grrrrr.

sw

14 posted on 10/27/2001 7:58:28 AM PDT by spectre
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To: Singapore_Yank
BTTT
15 posted on 10/27/2001 8:06:50 AM PDT by Fiddlstix
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To: Singapore_Yank
I think people need to remember that the first ammendment, which these activists try to stretch like hell to prohibit any thought of religion in schools apply only to the FEDERAL government. So unless your local public school is owned and opperated by Uncle Sam, you can do anything you want.
For example, my local church {Catholic} when the building was being built, held sunday services in a local middle school. This went on for about a year and nobody had a fit and nobody complained. The local school actually loved it because we paid rent to use the place and cleaned up after ourselves.
16 posted on 10/27/2001 8:35:09 AM PDT by det dweller too
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To: Miss Marple
While the ACLU busies itself removing "God bless America" signs from the public schools, they never make any effort to chastise people who proselytize for Wicca or other strange cults. They are simply anti-Christianity.

You can establish a Mosque in public scholl...and put up signs admonishing all who enter the mosque to remove their shoe...but don't you dare say God...Allah's ok though...and if you so much as dare to think about saying the Lord's Prayer that'll get you expelled!

17 posted on 10/27/2001 8:47:08 AM PDT by pgkdan
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To: ATOMIC_PUNK
List Of Words in Bill Text for the 107th Congress starting with: HR3162 = POLICESTATE LOOK FOR YOUR SELF
18 posted on 10/27/2001 9:02:49 AM PDT by freedomnews
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To: Singapore_Yank; Miss Marple; gas_dr; spacealien; spectre
While the ACLU busies itself removing "God bless America" signs from the public schools, they never make any effort to chastise people who proselytize for Wicca or other strange cults.

They are simply anti-Christianity!

[The terrorists] "want a theocracy where one faith is mandated by the government"

We've got it. The public school-mandated faith is humanism/liberalism. LIBERALISM IS A RELIGION. The best defense is a good offense--start a campaign to get the religion known as LIBERALISM out of the schools.

Right on, Y'All!

We shouldn't allow ourselves to be convinced otherwise than that -- especially to its adherents -- "Environmentalism" is a grotesquely-pagan-heathen form of "religion," too.

When the tree-and critter-hugging environazis say "Love your Mother," they are not hiding what they are up to -- and they are not kidding!

And, along with the religion of Sodom and Gomorroh, that stuff is being force-fed in schools, too!

19 posted on 10/27/2001 9:28:21 AM PDT by Brian Allen
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To: ATOMIC_PUNK
Are you trying to get me going this early in the day!! Geeze, I'm not even awake yet!! No coffee and out of cigarettes. Boy, AP!!! Smile
20 posted on 10/27/2001 9:57:05 AM PDT by dixie sass
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To: Singapore_Yank
Alliance for the Separation of School and State

9 out of 10 FReepers agree, whether theist or atheist or agnostic, get rid of government schools.

21 posted on 10/27/2001 10:06:14 AM PDT by toenail
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To: det dweller too
I think people need to remember that the first ammendment, which these activists try to stretch like hell to prohibit any thought of religion in schools apply only to the FEDERAL government.

Where do you get this idea?

Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..."

The Establishment Clause has generally come to mean that government cannot authorize a church, cannot pass laws that aid or favor one religion over another, cannot pass laws that favor religious belief over non belief, cannot force a person to profess a belief. In short, government must be neutral toward religion and cannot be entangled with any religion.


Religion in public schools

Minersville v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940) - Supreme Court rules that a public school may require students to salute the flag and pledge allegiance even if it violates their religious scruples.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) - Court overturns Gobitis but is broader in its scope. No one can be forced to salute the flag or say the pledge of allegiance if it violates the individual conscience.

McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) - Court finds religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional.

Zorach v. Clausen, 343 U.S. 306 (1952) - Court finds that release time from public school classes for religious instruction does not violate the establishment clause.

Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) - Court finds school prayer unconstitutional.

Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) - Court finds Bible reading over school intercom unconstitutional and Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) - Court finds forcing a child to participate in Bible reading and prayer unconstitutional.

Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968) - Court says the state cannot ban the teaching of evolution.

Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980) - Court finds posting of the Ten Commandments in schools unconstitutional.

Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) - Court finds state law enforcing a moment of silence in schools had a religious purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.

Edwards v. Aquillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) - Court finds state law requiring equal treatment for creationism has a religious purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.

Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990) - The court rules that the Equal Access Act does not violate the First Amendment. Public schools that receive federal funds and maintain a "limited open forum" on school grounds after school hours cannot deny "equal access" to student groups based upon "religious, political, philosophical, or other content."

Lee v. Weisman, 112 SCt. 2649 (1992) - Court finds prayer at public school graduation ceremonies violates the establishment clause and is therefore unconstitutional.

Lamb's Chapel et al. v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993) - Court says that school districts cannot deny churches access to school premises after-hours, if the district allowed the use of its building to other groups.

Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, (1994) - Court states that the New York State Legislature cannot create a separate school district for a religious community.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, (2000) - Court rules that student-led prayers at public school football games violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Good News Club v. Milford Central School, (2001) - Court rules that Milford Central School cannot keep Good News Club from using its facilities because the school had created a limited public forum and prohibiting the religious club was viewpoint discrimination.

22 posted on 10/27/2001 10:13:18 AM PDT by dbbeebs
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To: dbbeebs
Ok db, you have assembled a glorious list of legalisms, and of course we all know that we need to have multiple layers of men in black robes to to keep reinterpreting several sentences of plainly written text because we are just not smart enough. But one fact remains regardless of what the men in black decide or redecide on any given topic, and that the Constitution was written to restrict what the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can do to the people, not what the people can do.

The fact that corrupt people have been misusing the constitution for generations to force their agenda down everyones throat does not make it OK.

If you want to make laws that people must wear bananas on their heads or force them to pay for destructive lifestyles I recognize the current reality that you probably will be able to get away with it. Just spare me the sanctimony about it being based on an umpteenth reinterpretation of a few words in the constitution, because it is not. It is simply a manifestation of the political power of corrupt people with agendas filling the legal system with their kind.

23 posted on 10/27/2001 1:24:13 PM PDT by det dweller too
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To: Singapore_Yank
You can say "God" anywhere you please in this country, you can pray anywhere you please, because (and this is the part the "separation of church and state" idiots ignore:) congress shall make no law PROHIBITING the free exercise of religion. Tell the liberals and other separation nuts to hand over their money NOW, it isn't valid in their eyes.
24 posted on 10/27/2001 3:06:23 PM PDT by goodieD
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To: Singapore_Yank
I too love Jay Sekulow!! Woohoo!! BUMP FOR SEKULOW and BUMP FOR "GOD BLESS AMERICA"
25 posted on 10/27/2001 3:08:00 PM PDT by MoJo2001
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Comment #26 Removed by Moderator

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