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Navigating Religious Rights of Teachers and Students: Establishment, Accommodation, Neutrality, or Hostility?(USE AS GUIDE ONLY)
Send out your light and your truth! Let them guide me. Psalm 43:3
Navigating Religious Rights of Teachers and
Accommodation, Neutrality, or Hostility?
Smith: Navigating Religious Rights of Teachers and Students
Navigating Religious Rights 1
Despite the notion that First Amendment rights are established, valued, and respected in
the United States, in public schools there continues to be confusion that leads to legal conflict
over issues associated with freedoms of speech and expression, especially as they relate to
religious issues. As is often highlighted in the media, navigating the religious rights of teachers
and students can be a precarious undertaking, as the struggles resulting from administrators’
decisions regarding the expression of religious beliefs many times are resolved in the court
system at great expense to school districts.
The purpose of this article is to clarify religious rights issues for school administrators
and school boards. What actions risk violating the establishment clause or expressing hostility
toward religion? When and how is religion best accommodated while neutrality is maintained?
This study traces court decisions and laws that serve to guide religious rights policies and
practices. It also examines recent conflicts and the legal organizations whose mission it is to
address First Amendment violations.
Two Legal Organizations and Recent Cases
Several organizations have formed to address issues related to first amendment rights.
Two of these are the American Civil Liberties Union and the Liberty Counsel. While the
mission statements of these two non-profit organizations appear similar, they contain elements
that distinguish their approaches from one another and that have placed these legal associations
on opposing sides of many issues. Schools caught in civil rights entanglements commonly find
themselves at odds with one of these legal organizations or others similar to them.
Christian Perspectives in Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 2007
Published by DigitalCommons@Liberty University, 2007
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