Magazine article Church & State

Teachers Have No Right to Push Religion in Classroom, AU Tells Court

Magazine article Church & State

Teachers Have No Right to Push Religion in Classroom, AU Tells Court

Article excerpt

Public school officials did not violate a California teacher's rights when they asked him to remove two large religious banners from his classroom, Americans United told a federal appeals court in July.

AU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case centering on the actions of Bradley Johnson, a math teacher at Westview High School in San Diego County. Aided by a Religious Right legal group, Johnson filed a lawsuit against school officials in 2007, claiming his free speech rights were infringed when he was ordered to take down his religious signs.

A U.S. district court in March ruled in favor of Johnson and ordered school officials to pay nominal damages.

AU says the court failed to apply the law properly.

"The district court got it wrong," said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United's executive director. "A public school teacher has no constitutional right to push personal religious beliefs on students.

"I am confident that the appeals court will reverse this decision," Lynn continued. "It conflicts with current constitutional law and opens the door for teachers to proselytize students."

Americans United's brief, filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, supports the Poway Unified School District, arguing that the school was well within its rights to ask Johnson to remove the religious displays.

Numerous federal courts have ruled that public school teachers have no right to engage in religious activity with students or expose them to religious messages. …

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