The First AmendmentBlog / Produced by The High Calling
There is an interesting case that took place here in Texas years ago. A pair of twins were in elementary school. They had different teachers. Near Christmas, their mother baked two identical cakes. Each said, "Happy Birthday Jesus" on them. The twins brought them to school to share with their classes. The reaction of the teachers provides a perfect teaching moment for us about the meaning behind the First Amendment clause that prohibits the government from establishing any religion, AND prohibits the government from impeding upon the free practice of religion. One teacher opened the box, looked at the cake, and said, "We can't serve that cake." She put the cake away and did not let the children have it. She was afraid that she might get in trouble if she "allowed religion in the classroom." The other teacher opened the box and said, "Oh how wonderful. Johnny has brought a cake that expresses how his family celebrates Christmas. Johnny, would you like to share with the class about what Christmas means to your family? And afterwords, would anyone else like to talk about this holiday and how your family celebrates it?" The second teacher was correct. While the teacher cannot impose her religious views on her class, which is a "captive audience" - they must be there, neither is it wrong for a child to share a family tradition. After all, we allow children to talk about Christmas trees and lights and caroling and other traditions. It is also quite proper for student-lead religious groups to meet after school using school property. Why not? The soccer club and the boy scouts can meet if they wish. Christian Lawyer Blake Coffee posted some very helpful clarifications on this subject recently on his blog.
As a practicing attorney and a practicing church mediator, I have an interest in issues pertaining to religious liberties. In fact, it just may be that there is a series of posts coming in the future on this topic. But with the recent debates in California over Proposition 8 and with the “experiment” by some conservative churches involved in political campaigning in the recent presidential election, I have noticed some pretty loose interpretations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So, I thought I would chime in.... Read More.