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Religion In Schools - Dr. W.A. Kritsonis


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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, School Law, Use of School Facilities, Religous Rights of Teachers, Religous Freedom of Expression, Religous Rights in Schooling, Due Process, Freedom of Expression, School Prayers, Termination, Due Process

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Religion In Schools - Dr. W.A. Kritsonis

  1. 1. Religion in the Schools William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
  2. 2. Religion in the Schools <ul><li>Court battles are being waged between those who demand that schools and religion be kept separate and those who demand that school accommodate religion in public schools. </li></ul><ul><li>The chapter focuses on legal framework of religion in school battles and an in-dept examination of contemporary religious issues in Texas schools </li></ul>
  3. 3. Legal Framework <ul><li>The First Amendment begins with a statement about religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” </li></ul><ul><li>This statement applies that state governments and public schools through provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, has two distinct components: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the establishment clause (Congress shall make n law respecting an establishment of religion”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the free exercise clause (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Establishment Clause <ul><li>U.S. Supreme Court has construed the an before the word establishment to mean that not only is government not to set up a state church, but it also is not to aid any particular religion. </li></ul><ul><li>In short the separation of church and state. </li></ul><ul><li>Starting with the Everson case in 1947, The court ruled that New Jersey could reimburse the transportation expenses of parents who sent their children to parochial or other private schools. It did not violate the wall of separation between church and state because both public and private schools students would get to school safely. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>A year later in McCollum v. Board of Education, the Court ruled that a release-time program in which religious instruction was given to students on a voluntary basis in the public schools did breach the wall of separation. </li></ul><ul><li>Four years later in Zorach v. Clauson, the Court upheld a New York program that allowed students interested in religious instruction to leave school early so they could receive religious instruction at off-campus centers. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Supreme Court Guidelines for Church State Issues <ul><li>In the early 1970’s the Justices developed a set of guidelines for resolving church-state guidelines. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1. The purpose of a challenged law or practice must be secular (as opposed to sectarian). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. The primary effect of the law or practice must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion (and thus does not impair the practice of one’s religious beliefs). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. The law or practice must not involve excessive entanglement between state and church (this guideline is most often related to state efforts to aid religiously affiliated private schools). </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. More Recently… <ul><li>Members of the Court have urged amending or abolishing Lemon guidelines ((named after 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman decision) in favor of more flexible approaches. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1997 the Court returned to Lemon guidelines to uphold a government program that permits public school teachers to deliver remedial education to educationally at-risk students under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Education Act, on religious private school campuses (Agostini v. Felton). </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Cases involving inclusion of religion in public schools the Court has considered whether there is government endorsement of religion and whether there is a psychologically coercive effect on objectors (Lee v. Weisman, 1992). </li></ul><ul><li>U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit employs five guidelines in determining establishment clause issues involving public schools. Lemon plus two from the Lee case. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Provisions of Texas Constitution <ul><li>Reflect a desire to separate church and state. </li></ul><ul><li>Article I, Section 6 states: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society of mode of worship.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Article I, Section 7 specifically prohibits the expenditure of public school dollars for sectarian purposes. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It reads: “No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.” Assumed to be more strict than the First Amendment establishment clause. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Free Exercise of Religion <ul><li>Second Component of First Amendment is the “free exercise clause”. </li></ul><ul><li>This clause assures that people shall be free to exercise their religious beliefs without government restraint or persecution. </li></ul><ul><li>Applies to school districts under the Fourteenth Amendment. </li></ul><ul><li>Provides extensive protection for religious expression and exercise. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Article I, Section 6 of Texas Constitution states: <ul><li>“ All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences….No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion….[I]t shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>The right to the free exercise of religion is not absolute--there are limits to what the court can allow. </li></ul><ul><li>The court can not always protect religious freedom when accompanied by an action. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1978, the Supreme Court decided in Reynolds v. United States that Mormons have the right to believe in polygamy, but Congress has the right to prohibit its practice. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Religion Defined <ul><li>First Amendment established clause purposes, courts generally define religion as deity-based, and having general recognition as a bonafide religion. But for free exercise clause purposes, the definition is more relaxed and can extend to a belief system that is philosophically rather than theologically based. </li></ul><ul><li>A person can believe in whatever the person wishes, the person cannot practice beliefs in such a way as to disrupt the learning environment or interfere with the rights of others. Rules of order apply to everyone. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Federal and state statutes protect religious freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in public and private employment. Does allow sectarian private schools to hire individuals due to religious preference. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Court ruling make it difficult for a school district with a community use policy to exclude religious groups from holding religious services on schools grounds. </li></ul><ul><li>Texas Education Code provisions protect religious freedom. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students can pray and mediate voluntarily and individually in schools as long as there is no disruption of instructional or other activities. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No person may require, encourage, coerce or a student to engage in or refrain from prayer and meditation. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prohibits asking bout the religious affiliation of anyone applying for public school employment. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1961 the Supreme Court ruled that requiring public officers to declare a belief in God constitutes a religious test for public office that invades the individual’s right to religious freedom. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Contemporary Issues <ul><li>Concerns about the role of religion in Texas public schools have surfaced over a variety of issues. We will briefly examine the following: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Pledge of allegiance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School Prayer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Religious Exemptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wearing religious symbols </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And student religious groups and the Equal Access Act. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Pledge of Allegiance </li></ul><ul><li>Texas Education Code Section 25.082(b) requires students to recite the pledge of allegiance to both the U.S. and Texas flags in all public schools each day. Subsection ( c ) provides that a student is excused from doing so upon written request from the parent or guardian. </li></ul><ul><li>School Prayer: </li></ul><ul><li>Courts have ruled that schools cannot mandate or promote prayer. </li></ul><ul><li>Public School nor its employees may not lead, promote, or participate in prayers with or among students during curricular or extracurricular activities, including before, during, or after school-related sporting events. Employees do not have to leave the room when students pray on their own or treat students with disrespect. </li></ul><ul><li>Silent meditation is legal, but not if or prayer is added to the mandate by a state (Wallace v. Jaffree). </li></ul><ul><li>School may not sponsor a prayer at commencement, but a student volunteer may pray as long as the message is nonsectarian and nonproselytizing. </li></ul><ul><li>Graduation are closed forums. </li></ul><ul><li>Texas Education Code and the federal courts recognize that students can engage in personal prayer at school and at school-sponsored extracurricular events separate and apart from school involvement. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Religious Exemptions <ul><li>The government may never compel a person to profess a belief. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This includes saying the pledge, saluting the flag, bowing for amount of silence. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A student who refuses to salute the flag for philosophical reasons is entitled to the same exemption as a student who asserts a religious reason for not doing so. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Wearing Religious Symbols: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prevents discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion sex or national origin. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School districts must accommodate a teacher’s wearing of religious symbols and attire unless it would be undue hardship to do so. Undue hardship can encompass a non-economic burden such as maintaining the appearance of religious neutrality in the classroom. </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>School districts can impose restrictive dress codes for students. </li></ul><ul><li>Dress codes cannot deny students First Amendment rights to engage in religiously motivated speech and free exercise of religion. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1997, New Caney I.S.D. students were successful in challenging the application of the district’s gang -related apparel rule to the wearing of rosary beads. The school district was worried about gang violence, but the judge found insufficient evidence of actual disruption at New Caney High School to justify infringing on the students’ religiously motivated speech (Chalifoux v. New Caney I.S.D.) </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Student Religious Groups and the Equal Access Act </li></ul><ul><li>Equal Access Act give non-curriculum-related student groups access to public secondary schools during noninstructional time to engage in religious, political, philosophical, or other types of expression. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Must be student-initiated groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voluntary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And student led </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>District and school personnel are prohibited from sponsoring meetings but may attend in a custodial capacity. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-school person may “direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.” </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Access Act does not violate the Constitution (Westside Community School v. Mergens). </li></ul><ul><li>Equal Access Act does not limit First Amendment rights of individual students to come together voluntarily during the school day for religious expression on school grounds, including prayer and the distribution of religious literature, so long as it is done in a non disruptive manner (Clark v. Dallas I.S.D.). </li></ul>
  23. 23. In Conclusion <ul><li>Texas and U.S. Constitutions make it clear that public schools are to neutral regarding religion. Provide strong support for the individual freedom of religious belief and exercise. </li></ul><ul><li>School sponsored prayer violates the wall of separation between church and state. </li></ul><ul><li>Common line of reason running through case law is that public schools must avoid either advancing or inhibiting religion. </li></ul>