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Denial of Free Speech by the Courts

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. - The Bill of Rights


Following are examples of the courts and local authorities stifling free speech.

In Our Schools...

  • Freedom of speech and press is guaranteed to students unless the topic is religious, at which time such speech becomes unconstitutional. [Stein vs. Oshinski, 1965; Collins v. Chandler Unified School district, 644 F. 2d 759, 760 (9th Cir. 1981).]
  • Remove student prayer: "Prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State." [Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 425 (1962).] On June 26, 1962, the Supreme Court bans the New York State school prayer, "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country."
  • It is unconstitutional for students to hear prayers of the Chaplain of the U.S. House or Senate. [State Board of Ed. vs. Board of Ed. of Netcong, 1970]
  • Remove benedictions and invocations from school activities: "Religious invocation...in high school commencement exercise conveyed message that district had given its endorsement to prayer and religion, so that school district was properly [prohibited] from including invocation in commencement exercise." [Graham v. Central Community School Distict of Decatur County, 608 F. Supp. 531, 536 (W.D.N.Y. 1985; Kay by Disselbrett v. Douglas School District 719 F. 2d 875 (or. Ct. App. 1986; Jager v. Douglas, 862 F. 2d 824, 825 (11th Cir. 1989).]
    If a voluntary, nondenominational prayer is coercive, what would you call the left indoctrination that has become the staple of modern pedagogy, from condom distribution to AIDS education to multiculturalism to Earth worship?
  • Prayer before athletic events is unconstitutional. [Jager vs Douglas, 1989]
  • Remove school Bible readings: "If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be, and...had been, psychologically harmful to the child." [School Dist. Of Abington Twp. V. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 209 (1963).]
  • It is unconstitutional for a Board of Education to use or refer to the word "God" in any of its official writings. [State of Ohio v. Whisner, 351 N.E. 2d 750 (Ohio Sup. Ct. 1976).]
  • In Phoenix Arizona, Sherri Steckel, a tenured Bethune Elementary school teacher, was fired in Jan. 1993 without warning on charges of unprofessional conduct for "religious activities." Behaviors listed by the Phoenix Elementary Board of Education as "unprofessional" included folding her hands in what they called "prayer position" during the in-class moment of silence. She was also accused of daily praying in class because one fifth grade student thought he heard her whisper a prayer once during the moment of silence. Steckel did admit to praying for two students during non-instructional time in the school courtyard, playing instrumental praise music and a patriotic album with songs like "God Bless America" on it while students did seat work, and once using a lesson which centered on the biblical message of honoring father and mother. According to one of her former colleagues, Steckel was "a top reading teacher in the district. They brought in people from all over the district to observe her because she got top reading scores with children." [The Arizona Republic, Feb. 26, 1993, cited in Religious Rights Watch, June 1993.]
  • In Virginia, a federal court has ruled that a homosexual newspaper may be distributed on a high school campus, but religious newspapers may not. [Willaim J. Murray, "America Without God," The New American, June 20, 1988, pg. 19.]
  • Officials at Wauconda Junior High School banned the evangelical Christian newspaper Issues and Answers from the school, saying that they have a legal obligation to maintain the "separation of church and state." [Chicago Tribune, Oct. 1, 1991.]
  • A kindergarten student wanted to read the story of the first Christmas as his class project "Favorite Story Month" assignment. The teacher and the principal promptly told this little kindergarten student that books about God weren't allowed in school.
  • At a New York school, a young boy is instructed not to mention or write about "God" in any of his classwork.
  • In Georgia, a young girl is told not to write a biography of Jesus.
  • A fourth grader in California is warned he can do a book report on anything ... except the Bible and religion.
  • First grader Emily Aaker of Bemidji, Minnesota was told by her teacher that she could not play her favorite tape, "Surf and Turtles," because it contained religious songs. As part of the Horace May Elementary School's "Student of the Week" program, selected students were allowed to share their favorite music with classmates.
  • A K-5 nursery rhyme was declared to be unconstituional because someone might think it was a prayer even though the word "God" was not contained in it. [Despain vs. Dekalb County Community School District, 1967]
  • To make sure that no students got the message that God might play a part in keeping off drugs and out of gangs, Wichita Schools Superintendent Larry Vaughn instructed speakers during Youth Crisis Awareness Week in September 1993 to avoid any mention of religion in their talks. The talks were sponsored by a coalition of Christian groups. The week included evening events at several churches. The gag order by Superintendent Vaughn was intended to keep the speakers from advertising the evening events during their talks at 65 area schools. [Religious Rights Watch, December 1993.]
  • If a student prays over his lunch, it is unconstitutional for him to pray aloud. [Reed v. Van Hoven, 237 F. Supp. 48 (W.D. Mich. 1965).]
  • An elementary school student in Missouri is disciplined for praying over his lunch.
  • Public schools were barred from showing a film about the settlement of Jamestown because the film depicted the erection of a cross at the settlement, despite the historical fact that a cross was erected at the Jamestown settlement. [John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), pg. 406.]
  • A Bloomingdale Michigan high school was sued because it has a portrait of Jesus Christ hanging in the hallway. The portrait is a classical and historical picture. It is a portrait of Christ, not wearing a crown of thorns or hanging on a cross, things which might hold a religious significance for people. Eric Pensinger and his mother filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU which challenges the picture as a violation of the separation of church and state. A Michigan federal judge agreed with Pensinger, that a portrait of Jesus Christ displayed in a hall for 30 years at Bloomingdale High School violates the First Amendment's ban on state-advancement of religion. Judge Benjamin Gibson ordered it removed. Rutherford Institute attorneys defending the school said, "To disallow a questionable 'religious' picture in the context of a public school is not government neutrality towards religion, but instead is an example of censorship."
  • High school art teacher Nancy Greenwood asked her students at Red River High School to design posters expressing their emotions about an issue of concern in their community. Students chose topics such as drugs, AIDS, abortion and the environment. Heidi Marwitz, however, designed a poster that included a cross, an American flag and the question, "Is the Son shining in your school?" Greenwood gave the poster a perfect grade and displayed it in a school hallway with the rest of the class posters. Principal Everett Knudsvig ordered the poster down because it violated school policy. The policy is based on "the separation of church and state," Knudsvig said. "We have to be respectful of all religions and not place one over the other." [Grand Forks Herald, March 11, 1995.]
  • In Bel Aire, Kansas, the word "Easter" has been dropped from their annual egg hunt. Ever since President Hayes started the custom of the White House Easter Egg Roll on Easter Monday of 1878, except for the years 1942 to 1953, that tradition has been enjoyed by many thousands of children who couldn't have cared less about any religious significance. Ironically, the word "Easter" although adopted by Christians long ago, is not of Christian derivation. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Easter is "a goddess of spring." The World Book Encyclopedia says it "may have come from 'Eastre,' a Teutonic goddess of spring, or from the Teutonic festival of spring called 'Eastur.'"
  • In the Alaska public schools, students were told they could not use the word "Christmas" in school because it had the word "Christ" in it, nor could they have the word in their notebooks, nor exchange Christmas cards or presents, nor display anything with the word "Christmas" on it. [Willaim J. Murray, "America Without God," The New American, June 20, 1988, pg. 19.]
  • The Postmaster in Appleton, Wisconsin, invited students from area schools to submit artwork for display at the local post office. However, when the students at Appleton Christian School were selected to sumit their artwork, a postal employee advised them "to avoid decorations that are overly religious." They were later told they could not include manger scenes or the word 'Christmas' on their greeting card art. [The Rutherford Institute newsletter, March 1995.]
  • In Frederick County, Virginia, Thomas Malcolm, the superintendent of schools ordered teachers to stop using the word "Christmas" because of its religious implications. It its place, teachers were instructed to call it a "winter holiday." Christmas parties are OK for schools to hold, but they must be called "holiday parties." Employees were further instructed to refer to Easter as "spring break" or use other terminology that does not convey religious meaning to students. Malcolm's memo bears a striking resemblance to the way the former Soviet Union required Christmas to be observed in its public schools. Soviet government mandates forbade the use of the word Christmas, requiring "winter holiday" instead. "Father Frost" was the substitute for Jesus or Santa Claus, and the trees decorated at this time of year were called "New Year Trees." [Cal Thomas, "Russia Learned What America Has Scorned," AFA Journal, Feb. 1993.]
  • At South Lake schools in Michigan students designed a holiday banner in music class and were told they had to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Merry X-Mas."
  • In Colorado, a music teacher was stopped from singing traditional Christmas carols in her classes. ["Parent Silences Teaching of Carols," Washington Times, Dec. 12, 1988.]
  • In Ithaca, New York, a school superintendent issued an official policy mandating that all songs mentioning Jesus be banned or censored in music classes and annual Christmas programs.
  • In Emporia Kansas, the school board decided to drop a Christmas program that has been a tradition since the 1930s. The board attorney John Atherton said before they voted, "If we go on with the program as is, we can certainly expect to be sued by the ACLU." ["Emporia School Board won't Sponsor Traditional Christmas Pageant," The Wichita Eagle, September 16, 1993, pg. 5D.]

In Our Court Rooms...

  • Remove the Ten Commandments from view: "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the commandments...this...is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause...The mere posting of the copies [of the Ten Commandments]...the [First Amendment] prohibits." [Stone v. Gramm, 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980).]
  • The ACLU has filed suit against Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy S. Moore asking that prayer be banned from his chamber and that he be ordered to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from the wall above his bench. [Birmingham News/Birmingham Post-Herald, April 1, 1995.]
  • In California and Pennsylvania, prosecutors were banned from referring to the Bible in state courtrooms. [Pat Robertson, newsletter, March 1993.]

In the Public Square...

  • The city of Vienna, Virginia put up a secular Christmas scene alongside a nativity scene to avoid trouble. But that wasn't good enough for the ACLU, who filed suit, won, and had the nativity scene removed. Intimidated by the ACLU, city leaders asked the Vienna city chorus to sing only secular songs at the Christmas program. To its credit, the chorus refused. Now the city has dropped the program altogether. [D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries newsletter, October 31, 1994]


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