Student poster, before and after “In God We Trust” censored
An elementary school in Tennessee, after successfully rebuffing an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over religious expression on campus, has nonetheless ordered the words “God Bless the USA” and “In God We Trust” covered up on student-made posters in the hallway.
Administrators at Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., told parents that the posters, promoting the See You at the Pole student prayer event, mentioned “God” and are therefore precluded by school board policy and prohibited in the hallways as inappropriate.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance defending religious liberty, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of 10 parents and their children, seeking an injunction against banning private religious expression on student-made posters.
“Christian students shouldn’t be censored for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum in a statement. “It’s ridiculous as well as unconstitutional to cover up these references to God and prayer – one of which is the national motto itself – on posters announcing a student-led activity.”
Further, Kellum surmised, “School officials appear to be having an allergic reaction to the ACLU’s long-term record of fear, intimidation, and disinformation, despite a previous court ruling at this very school that said students can observe these types of events on school property.”
In 2006, lawyers from the ACLU sued the school to stop it from recognizing religious events, including See You at the Pole and the National Day of Prayer.
In May 2008, a U.S. District Court judge refused to grant the ACLU’s request.
This year, each poster, made on personal time without the use of any school funds or supplies, included the disclaimer: “See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led event and is not endorsed by Lakeview Elementary or Wilson County schools.”
Nevertheless, the lawsuit states, the school’s assistant principal told parents – upon advisement from the principal and director of schools for the county – that Scripture verses and phrases mentioning “God” would not be permitted on the posters. Even “come pray” was deemed in violation of school policy for using the word “pray.”
With the date of the “See You at the Pole” event only a few days away, rather than asking the students to make new posters, the school provided green slips of paper to obscure the offending words.
WND contacted Lakeview Elementary’s vice principal, but she declined to comment until she could familiarize herself with the details of the lawsuit.
Attorneys from ADF contend the disclaimer statement on the posters was more than enough to release the school from any perceived endorsement of the “God” messages, and that burying the words behind green paper constitutes a clear violation of First Amendment rights.
“The Constitution prohibits government officials from singling out religious speech for censorship,” Kellum said, “but this is exactly what Lakeview school officials did when they ordered these words to be covered.”