Student Stopped From Saying “God Bless”
Current Events vs. Founding Documents
According to The Christian Post, May. 05, 2010
A Florida school district is being sued for “persistent and widespread” restrictions on religious expression. Liberty Counsel, a legal group often representing Christians in religious freedom and family cases, filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of two dozen individuals against the Santa Rosa County School District and its Superintendent, Timothy Wyrosdick, for violations of First Amendment rights.
The plaintiffs – which include teachers, students, former students, parents, volunteers and local members of the community – complain that they have been censored, intimidated or harassed by the school district and its partner, the American Civil Liberties Union.
Last year, the school district agreed to a Consent Decree drafted by the ACLU that restricts the practice or promotion of religious expression and activities by students. The decree was adopted after the ACLU sued Santa Rosa schools over the same issue – the right to pray and express religious beliefs in school.
In 2008, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Pace High School Students who alleged that school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events. The Consent Decree was the result of the lawsuit. It prohibits school officials from proselytizing, promoting or endorsing prayers during school functions and organizing school-sponsored religious services.
“Students can no longer say ‘God Bless,’ teachers must hide in closets to pray, parents cannot communicate frankly with teachers, volunteers cannot answer any questions regarding religion, Christian groups cannot rent school facilities for private religious function benefiting students, and pastors are dictated how they can and cannot seat their audience at private, religious baccalaureate services held inside their own houses or worship,” Liberty Counsel said in a statement. Chaz Riley, senior class president at Milton High School, is one of the plaintiffs in the Liberty Counsel lawsuit. Riley, in a letter to students, wrote “Good luck and God Bless,” but the phrase “God Bless” was removed by school officials because it is prohibited under the Consent Decree. Officials contended it amounts to offering a prayer.
Liberty Counsel denounced the Consent Decree for “obliterat[ing] religious freedom” and making a “mockery of the First Amendment.”
“Freedom fled from Santa Rosa County when the ACLU filed suit,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law. “Liberty Counsel intends to restore freedom and end the intimidation.”
The Santa Rosa County School District, in a statement, expressed frustration at being caught between what it considers two advocacy groups.
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According to the Pensacola News Journal, July 5, 2011
The Santa Rosa County School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to approve an agreement between the School District, the American Civil Liberties Union and Liberty Counsel.
Among the amendments to the original agreement is clarification of what does and doesn’t constitute a “prayer.” ‘Prayer’ does not include customary, polite expressions and greetings, including ‘God bless you’ or ‘thank heavens,’
or a student’s religious expression responsive to a legitimate academic class
assignment,” according to court documents.
Local members of Santa Rosa County, The Constitution, and The Liberty Council vs. The ACLU and The Santa Rosa County School District.
The Constitution, First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government
for a redress of grievances.
To quote Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
We the People:
The Liberty Council forced the ACLU to compromise. Although this agreement was still more restrictive than what the first amendment grants, the Liberty Council deserves enormous credit for their service. They could have some fun by how they define customary polite expressions and greetings. Here is an example of a polite expression:
May God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change;
courage to change the things we can;
and wisdom to know the difference.