Judge rules against science class religious displays
PUPILS attending Joelle Silver’s science class in the Cheektowaga Central School District in New York routinely found it peppered with an array of religious posters and pictures and sticky notes with “inspirational” biblical verses.
These included a drawing of three crosses on a hill, depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, and a poster featuring a quotation from former US President Ronald Reagan:
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 … lf ever we forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.
This was all to much for one pupil who contacted the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent a letter in June, 2012, to Cheektowaga Central School District protesting the presence the religious imagery in Silver’s classroom.
The school took immediate action and ordered the removal of all the offensive material. Silver, who doubled as the faculty sponsor for the school’s Bible Study Club, retaliated, and launched a lawsuit against the school, saying she had been picked unfairly picked on. No action, she asserted, had been taken against a social worker at the high school who displays materials inside and outside her office that:
Promote the gay rights agenda.
These materials included posters, bumper stickers and decals. One decal featured the “equal” symbol of the of the Human Rights Campaign:
A pro-gay rights, anti-Christian activist organization.
According to the lawsuit, although the social worker’s materials are intended to create a “welcoming environment,” for LGBT students:
The displays also create an atmosphere of intolerance toward students who have religious objections to promoting the LGBT lifestyle or agenda.
This week, to the fury of Christian conservatives, Silver lost her case. Judge Leslie G Foschio, of the US District Court for the Western District of New York, ruled that the removal of her material was legal and that Silver’s lawsuit against Cheektowaga Central School District, its Superintendent Dennis Kane and its Board of Education President Brian Gould could not proceed on the basis of her rights being violated.
In the 42-page decision, Foschio did, however, conclude that the lawsuit could advance on Silver’s complaint of “selective enforcement”.
Silver is being represented by the American Freedom Law Center. In a statement, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel Robert Muise took issue with the decision.
Similar to the school district’s censorship of Ms Silver’s speech, the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation is dripping with hostility to religion.
To assert that the school district was justified in ordering Ms. Silver to remove small, sticky notes containing handwritten, inspirational Bible verses that she attached to the back her desk for fear that these small, personal notes would violate the Establishment Clause, as the school district argued and the magistrate judge found, is simply absurd.
Regarding the direction of lawsuit from here, in his statement released after Tuesday’s decision AFLC’s Muise said that
This fight is far from over.