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Religious Freedom in Education Can Change America

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
September 25, 2017 12:01 pm

Religious Freedom in Education Can Change America

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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September 25, 2017 12:01 pm

This week on Family Policy Matters, NC Family President John L. Rustin speaks with Justin Butterfield, Director of Research and Education for First Liberty Institute, which is the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom. They discuss what students, parents and educators need to know about their religious liberty rights at school.

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When people stand up for literally right, it doesn't want to pick the right but it protects rights of everybody you thought, and it emboldens them to stand up for their mate. This is policymakers with NC family Pres. John Weston to join us this week for family policy matters, students, families, teachers and school administrators return to school for the 2017, 2019 school year. We thought it would be a great time to highlight an important resource for students and educators who value the right they have to carry MX rest their faith school Justin Butterfield is here to discuss what student's parents and educators need to know about their religious liberty rights at school, not just in his senior counsel and director of research and education for first Liberty Institute, the nation's largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. As part of its mission, the first Liberty Institute has produced an excellent resource. A religious liberty protection kit for students and teachers and will be talking to Justin about that today just about her feel welcome to family policy matters. It's great to have you on the show. I think of having it greatly here, not just and let's talk, take a step back and talk about the big picture. First, what is the proper relationship between faith and religion, and education about what you know faith is central to our lives and impacts really every aspect of who we are and what we do, including education, and if you believe the lie really that we have to segregate our faith in the other areas of our lives, whether that's from school, work, or just going about our life in public, it creates a fractured person who can't be true to himself or herself and it been our experience at first Liberty Institute that can really sew confusion and students so we represented a couple years ago now a McKinsey freight Frazier, 1/6 grade student at Somerset Academy which is a public charter school in Las Vegas and McKenzie was given a class assignment to create a PowerPoint presentation entitled all about me, which was a PowerPoint presentation about her about her personallyinclude a slide with an inspirational thing that spoke to her to McKenzie and that she viewed as important trade identity and McKenzie decided to pick John 316 for her inspirational thing which says for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. So McKenzie created the slideshow PowerPoint presentation.

She put that is her inspirational thing and her teacher said no you can't present this to the class you have to pick a different thing because that's from the Bible and we can't have any Bible verses in your class assignments so McKenzie aunt didn't know what to do. She didn't know what she could do so she just picked another secular inspirational thing that didn't have the same meaning to her but she put that on her presentation.

Instead, within a few weeks later, in another class. McKenzie was doing a project on self-esteem and she couldn't think of what she could put her project and she was talking with her parents, but what you say about her self-esteem and her parents that will you know white. Once you talk about how you have self-esteem and work because you're made in God's image and McKenzie said no I can't do that. That was wrong and she thought it may even be a legal dimension God in class assignments and she got that idea because of her all about you presentation so she had she been told in one class. You can have John 316.

In your presentation and now she's got the idea that I can have that many school work I'm not allowed to present the religious aspect of me even if it's completely responsive to the class assignment and is really what she would would truly want to say. Well McKenzie is dead with the pastor and he he thought this doesn't seem right. And so he contacted us. At first Liberty and the school completely in the wrong in this.

That's not what the law requires lot is not that you can't express your faith or religious beliefs in your class assignment is within the school unless a demand letter, the pointing out the data actually violated the law and it was David violated her religiously right but until that happened. McKenzie believed that expressing her faith true to who she is not only wrong but maybe even illegal. And that's what's wrong so they should influence our school work or education like influences every aspect of our lives is not something that should just be hidden except for when were at church is something that we should be free to express and to betray the true us will absolutely, I couldn't agree more. And unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. We see these types of things happening all across the nation. Justin, how did we get to this place in our nation's history were so many citizens or often very misled about what our Constitution says or does not say about the supposed separation of church and state, especially as it relates to religious expression in our public schools, you know that there are several things that happened that if ever caused really that misconception and one of them is that that very phrase you just mentioned separation of church and state. People hear that phrase and they think well there has to be a separation between anything related to the church anything religious. Anything related to her faith and anything related to the state, including public schools. And that's just not true. The freight separation of church and state is not in the Constitution that it comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association has nothing to do with saying that you can express your faith when you're in public school that's not at all what that means, what the Constitution actually says is that you have the freedom to exercise your faith and you have free speech so you can share your faith, and the government can't take that away and what happened is that there are organizations. For instance, we we deal a lot with a group called the freedom from religion foundation that every year send out over a thousand demand letters to schools to government officials around the country that just portrays this this wrong idea that they should click clamp down on students who express their faith that they should should not allow that sort of expression that is wrong or people who did hear that term and they think of their own that they get in your mind. This ongoing idea that we can allow that we have to we have to whitewash faith in the public sphere is just not true.

So one of the things that we at first Liberty want to do is to educate the public, so we educate school officials, teachers, principals, people, and in other general positions.

But here's what Constitution actually says here's what you can do is what you can't do and we also educate students and parents so that they know all of this is actually not okay with the school just did to me.

The princes of the McKenzie's case, her father knew that the school treated. McKenzie wasn't right. McKenzie didn't realize that but once her father reached out to and we are able to send a demand letter and the school agreed all your right. We did violate McKenzie's will is the rewrite then that and they actually let McKenzie a present. Her original about me presentation so that educated all of the other teachers and students in the school that oh it is okay to be true to yourself and your religious faith. It is okay to express your faith. It's not illegal or wrong to express faith in schools. You're listening to policy matters a resource to listen to our radio show online enter more resources that will be a voice of persuasion in your community to our website see seems like in these instances that often times as you did in this circumstance would McKenzie sounds like it once you set a clarifying letter explaining what her rights are and why that is the case that quite often the schools are very responsive.

The school administrators, teachers and others are responsive to that because they understand hey what I thought was the case, is not the case. It seems like I could, ideally, parents and teachers and students would really understand their rights to live out their faith at school before these issues arise.

But unfortunately that's not always the circumstance yet that's exactly right. And sometimes students who know what the right foreign sampler rights stop the fight for the right right we represented Angela Hildenbrand who is a senior giving giving on an address at her graduation.

She was valedictorian and she wanted to pray in her valedictorian address and the school said no there. That's a lawsuit and the district judge said that if there's any mention of a man or Jesus or God that that there be incarceration and so we had taken emergency appeal to the Fifth Circuit to protect Angela's right to to be able to give her own speech that was true to her faith for her graduation address so the ideal you're absolutely right is to educate people before that happens. Sometimes that's not enough, and we actually have to litigate these issues and that's unfortunate. When that happens, but our goal is to educate the public, so that we don't have to reach that point we were grateful for that. Not just in the introduction to the religious liberty protection kit for students and teachers makes a bold statement. The quote religious freedom in education can change America talk about that statement a little bit in the impact that resources like this in the knowledge of those fundamental rights that we all have, to express our religious beliefs at school and elsewhere. What what is so important. Sure give you an example that illustrates that we represented a group of cheerleaders from Koontz Texas and I'll if you're familiar with a run through banner but the clincher leaders critic, renter banner, which is basically a big sheet of paper that they wrote a slogan for and before football game the players would run through this banner so the current cheerleaders and the cheerleaders.

It was a private club. It wasn't.

It wasn't a school club.

There was the cheerleaders acting on their own. They created these banners every week and they said you don't normally our banners are things that are antagonistic towards the other teams, but the cheerleaders said they wanted to be more encouraging and so they started writing encouraging Bible verses on their run through banners and the school said no that's that religion in mixing religion with the school. You can't do that with Glaxo at one point went so far as to say everybody attending the game cannot have any kind of fine or writing that expresses religion so you can have a T-shirt that that had a Bible verse on it yet so extreme, but that wasn't legal and so we we defended the current cheerleaders. The school has changed the policy and one of the neat thing about that is because the current cheerleaders stood further, the rights and again it took litigation, but they stood up for the rights they stood up for their ability to express their faith on the fines that they paid for and created on their own because of that other cheerleaders around the country were inspired by them to to do the same thing and they said, look, though the cheerleaders and Koontz Texas stood for their religious liberty rights. They stood up for who they are and their encouraging others with their faith and we want to do the same thing but not only the cheerleaders around America but around the world that actually had a group cheerleaders from Egypt who wrote them and said that they were an inspiration to them so when people stand up for the religiously rights it doesn't only protect their rights, but it protects rights of everybody sees that and it emboldens them to stand up for their faith and to be true to who they are in the faith. Well, that's rights, not just in what about teachers. I think many people have been important to this topic, at least a little bit of realize that students do have religious liberty rights in schools, but some still think the teachers must check their faith at the door when they walk into the schoolhouse is not true. No, that's not true.

In fact, the spring court that neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights when they pass through the schoolhouse gate, so teachers have religious liberty rights to now that slightly different students are free to express their faith to their peers at other teachers to the other students in class assignments. Teachers can express their faith to their peers, but they can't do anything that that would coerce a student to participate in in a religious activity. So while duties are free to share their faith with their other students.

The teacher is much more limited in that in that ensuring with the student. The student needs to approach the teacher first so there are a few different different limitations on teachers because they are also government employees, but teachers still have religiously rights just like students do and we we have represented teachers who have been told you're not allowed to hand out a Bible to the student and have an one of cases so teachers can express their faith both their peers and occasionally depend on the circumstances to students as well just based on your experience, what should students, parents or teachers do if they believe their First Amendment rights have been violated at school.

Well the first thing to do is go to our and when you go there you can contact us and tell us what happened and one of our attorneys will look at the situation. See note has something happened here that she does violate the law, we can let you know.

You know maybe it was okay.

What happened maybe is not okay. We can give you advice we can we can send the man letters and we can do it we can help you through the situations. If you think something's happened that violating your list of rights. Do everything you can do is on our website, you can click on resources and get one of our religiously protection kit we have in this area. The religiously protection kit for students and teachers that goes through some of these issues in depth and give citations to the cases that explain where the law comes from and can really help you, and knowing okay.

Here's where the line is is a constitutional out of the Constitution does not allow very good. Let me repeat that website for listeners. Were you can go to learn more about first liberty Institute and also to obtain a copy of this resource.

We been talking about today. The religious liberty protection kit for students and teachers MS first again that's first I and with that Justin Butterfield I want to thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters were so grateful for all the great work that you do defending our very first freedom, freedom of religion and freedom of speech and just pray for your continued success in all that you did. Thank you very much family policy matters production and to listen to our radio show online, and for more valuable resources and information about issues important to families in North Carolina website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

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