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    Religious banners in public school classroom prohibited

    Date: 10.28.11 | by Judge Tom.

    For twenty years, a math teacher in California hung banners with religious messages in his classroom. Some were 7 feet by 2 feet in size proclaiming the following: “God Shed His Grace on Thee,” “In God We Trust,” and “God Bless America.”

    Bradley Johnson explained that this was his way of celebrating the religious heritage of America. When he transferred to a new school in 2007, he was ordered to take the banners down. Principal Dawn Kastner of Westview High School in the San Diego area stated they were “a promotion of a particular viewpoint.”

    Johnson took the matter to court and succeeded in the federal District Court. He argued that the banners were no different than a Tibetan prayer flag, or a poster of Malcolm X or the Dalai Lama. The judge ordered the nine school officials who voted to remove the banners to pay Johnson a token $10.00 each.

    Photo from Thomas More Legal Center

    On appeal taken by the school district, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously* against Johnson in September, 2011. The court stated that a school may set rules regarding workplace speech that would apply to teachers as well as other school employees.

    Do you agree with this decision? Is it the size of the banner that you find offensive, the messages on them or both? Is there a difference between these banners and a prayer flag other than size? If Johnson appeals to the Supreme Court, which is his right, what do you think the Court will decide?

    *Johnson v. Poway Unified School District, September 13, 2011 (9th Circuit Court of Appeals).

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Tulsa Divorce Lawyers
      Sat, 29 Oct 2011 at 10:22

      I agree with the Ninth Circuit Justices – Johnson is an employee and he must follow the rules as enforced by the school administrators. I do not think that any one of those banners ‘crossed the line’ so to speak in that they do not endorse or promote a single religion. If the school as a whole were to hang those banners, they would probably be legal, but because an employee hung them and he was ordered by a supeior to take them down…
      The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government (including public schools) from endorsing or promoting any particular faith. Consequently, Christian banners in a classroom crosses the line and were properly prohibited. Non-Christian students have the same rights as others and shouldn’t be placed in a position of compromising their beliefs.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Sun, 30 Oct 2011 at 01:34

      New blog post: Religious banners in public school classroom prohibited http://t.co/vXNWVo88

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