Banning a student from saying “bless you” when another student sneezes and threatening punishment is against the law, warns a constitutional lawyer in a letter to school officials in Dyer County, Tennessee.
“It is unlawful for a school official to kick a student out of class for quietly blessing another student after she sneezes,” says the letter to Supt. Dwight Hedge from Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the nonprofit legal organization Liberty Institute.
Kendra Turner said she was suspended Aug. 18 by her teacher, Eva Kindle, at Dyer County High School, who said that kind of “godly speaking” is only for church.
“Within seven days, we require that Dyer County Public Schools issue a written and unequivocal public apology for unlawfully disciplining Ms. Turner for her protected religious speech,” Dys writes.
The letter also demands the school district fully exonerate Turner and instruct staff and teachers to immediately remove restraints on protected speech, including prohibiting the use of the words “bless you” in a classroom.
The letter explains: “School officials must follow the rules of the Constitution just like students must follow the reasonable rules of the classroom.”
Dys points out that Turner’s parents, according to their religious beliefs, “taught her to say ‘bless you’ when a person sneezes – which she did with little or no classroom disruption.”
“However, Kendra’s teacher disrupted the rest of the class to confront Kendra’s quiet use of the phrase ‘bless you.’ A classroom discussion followed during which the teacher forcefully explained that there would be no ‘godly speaking’ in her classroom and sent Kendra to the principal’s office. Kendra met with a vice-principal who affirmed the teacher’s hostile action, stating no religious language is permitted in the classroom. Subsequently, Kendra was sentenced to in-school suspension for the remainder of the block period.”
The letter says Turner’s “simple utterance is an expression of what she has been taught by her faith.”
“The Constitution affirms her non-disruptive freedom of such simple an expression of her faith. As the Supreme Court observed 45 years ago, ‘It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this court for almost 50 years.'”
Campus Reform reported Wednesday a teacher at College of Coastal Georgia warned students they may not say “bless you” while he’s talking in his class.
The report said Leon Gardner, who teaches chemistry, included the ban in a class syllabus.
It said: “We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude.”
He threatens a grade penalty if it happens.
“Gardner promises a grade reduction of up to 15 percent of the final grade to any student who disrupts his class,” Campus Reform reported.
“This is what happens when we’ve had 30, 40 years now of atheists and secularists demanding that any reference to religion be banished from the schoolyard entirely,” Dys told OneNewsNow.