Federal Judge Supports Removal of Christian Materials from Classroom


A New York federal district judge said that a public school was right in forcing a Christian teacher to remove Bible-themed materials from her classroom.

Joelle Silver, who works as a high school science teacher in Cheektowaga Central School District, put on display many inspirational posters in her classroom, including some that were Christian with references to the Bible.

For instance, one poster in Silver’s classroom quoted former President Ronald Reagan saying, “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience… Without God there is a coarsening of the society… Without God democracy will not and cannot long endure… If we ever forget that, we are One Nation under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”

Other religious items in the classroom included four miniature posters quoting verses from the Psalms, a picture of three crosses on a hill and many sticky notes with Biblical citations.

When Freedom From Religion Foundation learnt of Silver’s inappropriate classroom décor in 2012, they immediately complained to school district officials. Soon after, Silver was given a warning letter by the superintendent who ordered her to clean the classroom of all Christian materials.

“I … want to caution you that your Constitutional Rights, including those you enjoy under the First Amendment, are not without their limitations. It is my conclusion that you are using your publicly funded classroom to express your personal religious beliefs to your students… If you need to be able to occasionally glance at inspirational Bible verses between classes during the course of the day, I suggest that you keep such material in a discreet folder that only you will have access to. You may keep such a folder in a drawer of your desk, so long as you take precautions not to share it or disclose its contents to your students or their parents or guardians,” the superintendent warned in the letter.

Upon receiving the letter, Silver decided to sue the school, alleging the superintendent had violated her religious freedom. With the help of American Freedom Law Center, she filed a lawsuit claiming the Bible guides all of her actions, including those that help her serve as a public school teacher.

“I believe that my First Amendment rights were violated last June when I was asked to do some things regarding taking some posters down and to censor my speech in the classroom. As a Christian and as an American I feel it’s incredibly important to fight to protect the rights that people have died to give them,” said Silver.

The lawsuit also made note of the same school district allowing a social worker to display a range of “gay rights” materials on the premises, saying Silver had been discriminated against.

Two years after Silver was asked to remove Christian materials from her classroom, Judge Leslie Foschio ruled on June 24 in favour of the school district, reiterating that the display of Christian materials in the classroom was in fact inappropriate and the authorities had not infringed upon Silver’s liberties by asking her to clear them out.

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