Before students order their books and stock their backpacks, they need to think about preparing their most valuable back-to-school tool yet: knowledge of their religious liberty rights.
The number of religious liberty attacks increases each year, and yet, many cases go undetected due to lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students don’t even know their rights and as a result can’t identify or stand up to attacks on their religious freedoms.
So before students make those last minute runs to Target and Staples, we at Liberty Institute encourage them to prepare now for the battles they might encounter this school year:
1. Students have the right to First Amendment protections in public schools.
The First Amendment protects students’ freedom of speech and freedom to express their religious beliefs. Just because they walk through the school doors does not mean students lose these rights.
2. Students have the right to read their Bibles at school during free reading times.
The Bible is a book. If students can read other books of their choice at school, they can read the Bible too.
3. Students have the right to pray before an athletic competition, school assembly, or other extra-curricular activity.
Prayer is private speech, and private speech is protected under the First Amendment. So if it is student initiated, student led, and not disruptive, then students have the right to pray privately or as a group. Think of it this way, if students can talk freely, then they can pray.
4. Students have the right to pray during free time, such as lunch or recess.
Again, if students can talk freely, then they can pray. As long as they are not disruptive and it is during non-instructional time, they have the right to pray.
5. Students have the right to talk about religion with teachers and school employees.
During school, if a student starts the discussion, he or she can talk about religion with any school teachers or employees. Outside of school, students can talk about religion with anyone at anytime.
6. Students have the right to talk about God in class or school assignments.
If it fits the assignment, then students can talk about God. If students are writing a paper about their hero and God is their hero, then they have the right to write about God.
7. Students have the right to start a religious club at their public school.
If non-religious extracurricular student clubs are allowed, then religious clubs are allowed. The club must be student initiated, student run, and voluntary, but a club is a club. The word “religious” in its title makes no difference.
8. Students have the right to distribute informational flyers and use school resources for their religious club.
A religious club must be treated the same way a non-religious club is treated. If a non-religious extracurricular club can do something, like use the school’s bulletin board or pass out flyers, a religious club can too.
9. Students have the right to wear jewelry and clothing that expresses their religious beliefs.
If students’ clothing complies with the dress code, then it is their constitutional right to wear a T-shirt displaying their beliefs. So if you are allowed to wear a shirt with your favorite sports team logo, then you can wear a shirt with a religious message.
10. Students have the right to share their faith with their peers.
If students can talk about the latest celebrity gossip or new hit single, they can talk about God. As long as they are not disruptive and remain civil, anytime they are free to talk with their friends they are also free to talk about God with their friends.
Just because someone is a government official or in authority doesn’t mean their word is the law. Many times well-meaning individuals are misinformed or misguided. For example, we all know where the term “separation of church and state” appears in the Constitution: Nowhere. The First Amendment says the school’s job is to protect each student’s freedom of religious expression and not force one particular religion on anyone.
HELP PROTECT OUR NATION’S STUDENTS AS THEY GO BACK TO SCHOOL
If we do not stand up and speak out, this country will soon be stripped of all personal freedoms. Freedom is not an eternal gift won after a battle or preserved after a declaration. It is a constant battle calling us to be proactively engaged, that we may prevail.
Through your financial and prayer support, you make it possible for Liberty Institute to offer FREE, easy-to-understand back-to-school resources that students—and teachers—can download now at our Back-to-School page. They include:
· Know Your Religious Rights Kit – fully equips students, parents, and teachers to know their religious liberties in public schools and be prepared to defend and restore their rights when they come under attack.
· Student Bill of Rights in Schools Brochure – a condensed version of our “Know Your Religious Rights” kit that gives a quick overview of students’ rights when it comes to religious speech, expression, or practice in public schools.
· Teachers Guide – gives instructors great guidelines for how they can maintain their First Amendment rights—including freedom of religion and speech—in schools.
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.