Students and teachers: You can express your faith at school without fear

As Christian students and teachers head back to public school this fall, they may think they need to check their faith at the school door—but, they would be wrong. 

According to a guide entitled “Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers” created by the First Liberty Institute, students and educators do have First Amendment religious rights inside public schools and need to know what these rights are. 

“Students and teachers often don’t practice their faith in public schools because they believe it is illegal to do so, while others fear opposition within the schools and by activist legal groups,” according to Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel for First Liberty Institute. 

U.S. Supreme Court decisions and other laws grant broad religious liberty rights to students and teachers in public schools. According to the kit, knowing these rights can help empower students and teachers to exercise faith without fear.

Surprising Facts

The following are facts about religious rights in public schools that are outlined in the kit. To access the full kit, logon to https://firstliberty.org/rights/religious-liberty-protection-kit-for-stu...

•  Students can speak about their faith even when teachers must be neutral. 

• Schools cannot treat religious activity differently than other activity.

• Students can pray during lunch, recess aor other designated free time. 

• Students can read the  Bible or other religious materials at school.

• Students can share their famith with fellow students.

• Schools can acknowledge religion.

• Students can pray, either individually or asa f group, as school athletic competitions, student assemblies, or other extracurricular activities when schools officials are not involved.

• In many cases, a school district can allow student-led prayer before an athletic competition, as student assembly or other extracurricular event as part of the school program. 

• Students can pray at graduation ceremonies or include religious content in their speeches.

• A public school can refer to “Christmas” and have a “Christmas party” if the intent is not to advance Christianity.

• A public school can display Christmas decorations if the intent is to teach and not part of a religious exercise.

• Students can give out Christmas gifts with religious messages at school parties.

• Students can incorporate their faith or religion in classroom and homework assignments under normal and appropriate circumstances.

• A public school district cannot be hostile toward religious beliefs. 

• Teachers and other public school employees can discuss religion with other teachers or other school employees.

• A public school or a teacher cannot limit religious speech by students unless they limit other speech.

• Students can have a religious club at their school.

• Religious student groups can meet on campus whenever other non-curricular clubs can met. 

• Religious clubs can use the same school resources available to non-religious clubs to promote or facilitate clubs events.

• In most states, teachers or other public school employees may attend a religious student group’s meetings in a supervisory role.

•Members of religious student clubs can distribute flyers about meetings and events just like non-religious clubs.

Although knowing your rights is one thing, standing up for them is another, but you can do both, Shackelford said. 

Those with questions or concerns about a specific situation are encouraged to contact First Liberty Institute, which is the nations’ largest legal organization in the nation dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty in America. Contact First Liberty at 972-941-4444 or e-mail them at legalrequests@FirstLiberty.org

Information is courtesy of First Liberty Institute