Religion in Society

Tenn. School Censors Child's "God Bless the USA" Poster

| by ADF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund
filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of parents and students at Lakeview Elementary
School in Wilson County after school officials ordered “God Bless the USA,” “In
God We Trust,” and other phrases referencing God and prayer to be covered up on
posters before they could be displayed in the school’s hallways.  The posters
were hand-drawn by students and their families to announce “See You at the
Pole,” a voluntary, student-led prayer event held outside of class time.

“Christian students shouldn’t be censored for expressing their beliefs,”
said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum.  “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.  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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union previously sued
the school to stop it from recognizing such events, including “See You at the
Pole” and the National Day of Prayer.  In May 2008, a
federal judge refused to grant the ACLU’s request
.

Each year,
students and parents affiliated with Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet
have placed posters in the hallways of the school informing students of the “See
You at the Pole” event.  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 students and
their parents were ordered to cover up references to God and prayer and any
Scripture passages on the posters or else they could not be posted.

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After
a school employee told the parent of one student, “You can’t hang up those
posters.  They have the word ‘God’ on them,” the school’s vice principal and
director reinforced the policy, explaining that posters containing religious
references, like “In God We Trust,” “God Bless America,” and “come and pray,”
are precluded by school board policy and prohibited in the hallways as
inappropriate.

“The Constitution prohibits government officials from
singling out religious speech for censorship, but this is exactly what Lakeview
school officials did when they ordered these words to be covered,” Kellum
said.

ADF-allied attorney David L. Maddox is serving as local counsel in
the case.

* Before and after photos of one “God
Bless the USA” poster

* Before and after photos of one “In God We
Trust” poster

* Before and after posters of one “Come
Pray With Us” poster

* Complaint and motion for
preliminary injunction with supporting brief
filed in Gold v. Wilson
County School Board of Education
with the U.S. District Court for the
Middle District of Tennessee

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