Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

June 8, 2005

Censorship in the Public Schools

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

As I was just saying a few minutes ago, freedom of speech is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of American society. Another one is supposed to be freedom of religion, which has two faced: The government should not foist religion on you (the “no establishment” clause of the First Amendment), and the government should not prohibit you from exercising your religion (the “free exercise” clause). It should also not prohibit you from talking about your religion (the “freedom of speech” clause.

All of these are in trouble in the public schools.

First, Law Professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA reports that Cathy Summa, Principal of Karns Elementary School in Knox County, Tennessee, sent a letter home to parents “reminding” them that students are not allowed to read or discuss the Bible during recess. She did this after interrupting a group of ourth-graders with Bibles, ordering them to put the Bibles away, and singling one of those students out for a special “warning.” Some parents are suing in federal court. (Also linked by Clayton Cramer.)

Second, Instructor Michael Shefchik of Victor Valley Community College in Victorville, California gave a student a failing grade (49 out of 100 possible points) on a paper written in an English class, because she she mentioned the G-word. The approved topic for the paper: “Religion and Its Place within the Government.” (No doubt if she had mentioned the “F-word” instead of the “G-word” that would have been well within the bounds of her freedom of speech. These days, you have to keep track of which letters of the alphabet are permitted!) The student’s case is being taken up by the American Center for Law and Justice, a civil-rights organization which is sort of like what the ACLU would be if it supported the free-exercise clause as well as the no-establishment clause.

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