I have found a legal way to get the Ten Commandments back into
America’s public schools and once again teach our students the laws of
God, while simultaneously giving hernias to the American Civil Liberties
Union and their anti-Christian ilk.
Last year on a prime-time network talk show, I was asked a very
important question by an arrogant and politically liberal opponent. With
obvious sarcasm, he asked me if I believed the problems of violence,
teen pregnancy and academic bankruptcy which permeate our public schools
would be reduced if the Ten Commandments could again be posted on the
walls of America’s classrooms.
I answered, “While the teaching and role-modeling of Judeo-Christian
values by parents and educators must, of necessity, be re-introduced to
the public school curricula, the posting of the Ten Commandments would
be a wonderful first step in rebuilding the character of our nation.”
How It All Started
This media encounter set me to thinking and praying. How may we
legally get the Ten Commandments back into the public schools? Shortly
thereafter, a Christian constitutional attorney answered my inquiries.
He informed me that, under First Amendment protection, American
students may daily carry the Ten Commandments to school as covers on
their textbooks. I later learned that the Family Research Council and
other ministries were already assisting students in doing this on a
God Has Re-Enrolled In Our Schools
I decided my Jerry Falwell Ministries would do this on a mega-scale
… by the millions. We therefore created and began publishing Ten
Commandments bookcovers in large volumes. And now, America is visiting
my website, Falwell.com and ordering these
bookcovers in unbelievable numbers.
We even send out bulk orders of hundreds and thousands of bookcovers
at our production and handling cost. Bulk orders may be called in any
time, day or night, at 1-800-813-2572, toll-free.
This has resulted in legally saturating thousands of public
classrooms with God’s Law. A legal statement titled, “Students’ Rights
On Public School Campuses,” is printed on the back of each bookcover,
giving court rulings which support the students’ right to use these
covers. If a teacher or other school official hassles a student over
this issue, the youth is encouraged to show that person the “legal
Your Own Lawyer … Free
If the hassling continues, the toll-free phone number of 65
constitutional attorneys at Liberty Counsel (1-800-671-1776) is also
printed on the “legal statement.” The student can dial that number and
ask Liberty Counsel for pro bono representation.
It has been our experience thus far that, once Liberty Counsel has
talked with the school officials, the dispute is ended immediately. Not
one lawsuit has been necessary thus far.
The Supreme Court Started This Mess
In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Stone
v. Graham that posting of a privately-donated copy of the Ten
Commandments on a public school bulletin board in Kentucky was
unconstitutional, thus outlawing posting of the Ten Commandments from
all public schools in the nation.
In its ruling, the High Court included this amazing statement: “If
the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all,
it will be to induce the school children to read, meditate upon, perhaps
to venerate and obey the Commandments. (This) is not a permissible
Court rulings like the Stone decision have had a chilling effect on
the free expression of religion in the public square, especially for our
nation’s millions of children who attend public schools.
A Major Legal Loophole
However, as devastating as these court decisions are, other rulings
have left open a door for students to express their religious freedom in
a personal way. In the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent
School District, the court established an important precedent that forms
much of the basis for understanding the rights of students on public
school campuses today.
The Tinker case stemmed from Iowa students in grades two through 11
who came to school wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.
The students were told to remove the armbands but refused and were
threatened with suspension. A legal battle ensued with the case going
all the way to the Supreme Court.
In Tinker, the court stated, “In our system, state-operated schools
may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess
absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as
out of school are ‘persons’ under the Constitution. They are possessed
of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they
themselves must respect the obligations to the State.”
Furthermore, the court recognized that students continue to carry
their constitutional freedoms whether “in the cafeteria, or on the
playing field or on the campus during the authorized hours.”
“It can hardly be argued,” the Court said, “that either students or
teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or
expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
More Recent Cases
Like all citizens, the twin pillars of constitutional freedom for
public school students lie in the First Amendment guarantees of freedom
of speech and freedom of religion. The court has continued to uphold
this position in more recent cases.
Writing in the 1995 case, Capital Square Review v. Pinnette, Justice
Antonin Scalia said, “Private religious speech, far from being a First
Amendment orphan, is as protected under the Free Speech clause as
private secular speech.”
“Indeed,” Scalia continued, “in Anglo-American history, at least,
government suppression of speech has been so commonly directed precisely
at religious speech that a Free Speech clause without religion would be
like Hamlet without the prince.”
In addition to Tinker, other court rulings have plainly said that
students may not only possess religious symbols and literature on public
school campuses, but may share their faith either verbally or through
distribution of leaflets or religious tracts, as long as such activities
do not substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge
upon the rights of other students.
Mat Staver … American Hero
Attorney Mat Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty
Counsel, a civil liberties legal defense firm affiliated with Jerry
Falwell Ministries, says that students should not let school authorities
intimidate them from sharing their faith.
“The distribution of religious literature is a powerful tool,” Staver
says. “Students may distribute religious literature before or after
school while students are arriving on the campus. Bus stops and hallways
are prime areas for the distribution of literature.” Outside of class
time, Staver says that students can witness or distribute literature
during lunchtime in the cafeteria or on the playing field.
We are finally beginning to get the message, and the facts, about
students’ true religious freedom rights out to the American public.
There is no longer any need for students and teachers who wish to
express their faith in public schools to fear the bullies of the
American Civil Liberties Union, the National Education Association or
Barry Lynn and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Get Your Bookcovers
I urge every reader to visit my website
and order Ten Commandments bookcovers. Let us take God’s laws back into
the schools of America. While much more is needed to reclaim our schools
and our children for Christ, teaching God’s laws to the children is a
good starting place. Get your book covers today. You may write me
personally at [email protected].