A western New York public school district ordered the adviser of a student Bible club to remove a prayer request box because it was an alleged violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
“The placement of that box in your classroom is especially problematic because it is too easily perceived as the District endorsing or lending support to religion, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause, wrote Dennis Kane, superintendent of the Cheektowaga Central School District in a letter to science teacher Joelle Silver.
Silver, a veteran teacher, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district alleging they violated her civil rights after they forced her to remove anything that had a religious reference from her classroom including posters and inspirational sticky notes.
Silver was also the sponsor of the high school’s Bible club – until school officials cracked down on her involvement with the group, said her attorney Robert Muise – co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center.
The school district informed Silver that “your rights to free speech and expression are not as broad as if your were simply a private citizen.”
She was also ordered her to remove a quote from former President Ronald Reagan which read in part — “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”
He said the sole reason they are attacking his client is because she is a devout Christian. All of the allegations against her were listed in an 8-page letter from the superintendent.
“When they launched the investigation, the literally went through her classroom with a fine-tooth comb and removed anything that had anything to do with Christianity,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Ms. Silver does not cease being a Christian nor does she shed her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
Muise said the school’s treatment of teenage Christians was just as offensive.
“They are literally cleansing the classroom of any reference to religion,” he told Fox News. “They are doing it under this nonsense that there’s a wall of separation between church and state.”
The prayer box was mounted on a wall in Silver’s classroom. Students were able to place prayer requests inside – and later members of the Bible club would offer the petitions to God.
The superintendent took great umbrage because the box was decorated with Bible verses – and with Silver’s involvement of the group as an advisor.
“Under no circumstances should you participate in the club’s meetings or activities,” he wrote.
Muise said the teacher was also ordered to never discuss religion during school hours – even if a member of the Bible club had a question about Christianity.
“It’s heartbreaking for the teacher,” he said. “One student came in crying and feeling sorry for how the teacher was treated.”
Muise said there is a clear double standard when it comes to the Bible club – noting that the school openly promoted a Gay-Straight Alliance when they held a “Day of Silence.”
“The school promotes it, endorses it, and doesn’t penalize students for not participating in class,” he said.
He also noted that one faculty member has posters and other propaganda promoting gay rights posted all over her office.
“This school is an example of what we are seeing across the country,” Muise said. “This was just students leading prayers and they removed the prayer box from the classroom. That’s a violation of their rights.”
He said the attacks are coming from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Their objective is to remove any mention of God from the public square and in particular from public schools,” he said. “While they are pushing God out – their agenda is being brought in.”
Muise called groups like the FFRF anti-Christian.
“Their actions speak far louder than their words,” he said. “It’s so troubling when you think about what’s going on in our public schools today. Students can’t ask other students to pray for each other?”
He accused the groups of trying to rewrite American history.
“In God We Trust is our national motto for goodness sake,” Muise said. “We are a nation that was founded by religious refugees for the purposes of exercising our religious liberties. This is a Judeo-Christian nation.”