Beyond the Pledge, Beyond the Pale

, Peter Seabrook, Leave a comment

Candy canes. Pencils. Cards. Banned from school? Yes, should they dare to mention God.

Mr. Kelly Shackelford, Chief Counsel of the Liberty Legal Institute, gave U.S. senators an idea of the extent of the problem at a June 8 congressional hearing titled “Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Hostility to Religious Expression in the Public Square.”

“Teacher Karen Barrow waited 9 years for an assistant principal job to open. When it did, she was told by the superintendent she could only have the job if she removed her children from the private, Christian school they attended. When she stated she could not do that, she was told she had ‘no future’ in the district,” Mr. Shackelford said. According to depositions made by “superintendents from across the state,” this is common practice throughout Texas (case: Barrow v. Greenville ISD).

According to Liberty Legal Institute’s web site, Ms. Barrow, “a 15 year teacher with her principal’s certificate for 10 years,” had been “recommended” for the position of principal. The person who became principal instead “was not recommended” and “had not even completed her certification.”

The court’s initial decision on Ms. Barrow’s case should give parents everywhere pause. Also from the Institute’s web site: “The U.S. District Court in Dallas ruled that the right of parents to choose private education was not a fundamental right and thus ruled against Ms. Barrow.” Fortunately, the Federal Court of Appeals “reversed 3 to 0 in favor of Ms. Barrow and LLI.” However, Mr. Shackelford noted that “Mrs. Barrow’s case is still ongoing, after 6 years, with over a million dollars of attorney’s time having been donated so far for this teacher.”

Nor was this an isolated incident. Mr. Shackelford cited further cases:

    • Jonathan Morgan brought a candy cane to school for Christmas. “School officials, however, stopped him at the door because his candy cane had a religious message on it. The school district and its attorneys have refused to back down and Jonathan and his family are now forced to prepare a lawsuit” to secure his right to share whatever candy he chooses.

    • “Kindergartener Doe saw that other children were bringing Pokemon” cards to school. “When she brought her cards, however, they were confiscated from the hands of her classmates and school officials told her to ‘never bring religious things to school.’”

    • “An elementary school girl was told she could give pencils to her friends at school but not ones with ‘Jesus’ on them. Crying, she asked her mom, ‘why does the school hate Jesus?’”

    • “Tyndale Seminary was fined $173,000 for issuing 34 diplomas in the Bible without first getting state approval of its curriculum, board, and professors. The lower courts have ruled against them at each step of the way up to this point.” (case: HEB Ministries v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board)

Religious freedom in America’s schools is under attack and courtrooms frequently provide the battleground. Recent court cases indicate that this is a civil war between believers and overzealous public officials that may run longer than the 19th-century conflict between the North and the South.

From the 2000 Supreme Court decision against student-led school prayer, Santa Fe School District v. Doe, to the current controversy over the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, religious parents have alternately sought validation of and been forced to defend their freedom of religion through every venue possible.

A rising sophomore at Kenyon College, Peter Seabrook is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.