Teacher sues over classroom religious displays

A schoolteacher is suing her district after being told to remove religious displays from her classroom or risk being fired.
AP Wire
Jan 27, 2013


Joelle Silver, a science teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School in a Buffalo suburb, describes herself as a devout Christian.

A federal lawsuit filed Jan. 10 says the district was overtly hostile toward her religion and violated her constitutional rights when it directed Silver last year to remove from her classroom several posters and other displays quoting Bible verses.

Superintendent Dennis Kane said by phone that a student had complained about the material to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based watchdog group, which prompted the district to seek legal guidance.

"When you get advice that you're violating the separation of church and state, you have an obligation to resolve that," Kane said.

His June letter instructed Silver to remove several posters and sticky notes with religious references, including a poster with images of an American flag and text books with a superimposed quote: "Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Kane also cited the presence of a prayer request box belonging to the school's Bible study club and advised Silver to keep religious references out of her classroom lectures.

"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," the letter said. "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."

Silver's lawsuit, filed by the American Freedom Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., said the district's actions "send a clear message to (Silver) that she is an outsider, not a full member of the political and school community because she is a Christian."

Robert Muise, co-founder of the center, called the case "one of the most egregious examples of religious hostility I have witnessed in a public school."

"Ms. Silver does not cease being a Christian, nor does she shed her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate," he said.

An attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation said teachers have to act neutrally when it comes to religion.

"It's required by law," Rebecca Markert said. "Public school employees, including teachers, are prohibited from professing religious beliefs and imposing them on students."



Samuel Adams

Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness.

Benjamin Franklin

If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?

Thomas Jefferson

Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts...in which all religions agree.

George Washington

The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world.

George Washington

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness.

George Washington

The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.

I could go on and on with our Founding Fathers, however it would be interesting to hear, just what our Founding Fathers and many Presidents would say about the direction of this once Christian Nation founded "Under God" and with "Faith in God"? God Bless the Constitution and the United States of America.


Sorry, but this nation was not Under God until 1957. Our founding fathers had a very good reason to keep church and state separate, many of the original colonists had fled religious persecution by various states in Europe. When George Washington and Thomas Jefferson reference religion as necessary, they are speaking in a personal vein and not in reference to the state mandating any particular religious belief or even none at all. And by the way, the pledge was originally written as a means of promoting flag sales by Francis Bellamy (a minister who envisioned this pledge being suitable by many nations)in 1889. Dwight Eisenhower had the phrase under God added, over the objections of Bellamy's daughter, in 1957 to demonize "communists" during the infamous Red Scare. Preacher Bellamy certainly recognized the danger in the state promoting one religion over another.


Zegota, I bet you would be up in arms if this teacher was of a different faith such as yours and had quotes out of The Quran,The Tipitaka,The Ginza Rba or any other religious text other than the Holy bible.

This country was not founded on Christianity,Most founding fathers were deists,they founded our country based on freedom of religion:meaning they could practice any religion they chose without religious persecution.

Benjamin Franklin:
I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

Thomas Jefferson:
I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.
Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.
Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.

And to take this one step further:

Ezekiel 9:5-7
Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told.

Exodus 12:29-30
And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.

So lets keep all forms of religion out of schools, teach the fundamentals of education.


Because it's worked so well of late, I guess.


It has worked great .... for many years you do not have to guess


Has anyone ever told you how funny you are? You rock....


She is a god freak, and should loose her job.


Private sector it is fine....public sector different rules....why is this so hard for everybody to understand?


People shouldn't have to hide their faith. It's who they are. Funny how Muslims can walk around in the Burka's and head scarfs, flaunting their faith. But, not Christians because someone might be influenced by the fruits of Christianity...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. You anti-Christians are certainly right to be afraid of the Christian influence. We wouldn't want these types of fruits showing up in our kids and society today. lol!


I don't think she has to "hide" her religion but she is NOT supposed to be promoting it. There is a BIG difference! Furthermore, people of any faith are able to express their beliefs in any form and anywhere. However, they shouldn't be surprised if their job is terminated when they express themselves where it is prohibited by LAW. By the by, these "fruits of Christianity" as you call them are also the base of MANY religions NOT just Christianity. Seems like YOU have issues with other religions. How would YOU like it if a Muslim teacher hanged scripture from the Qur'an in your child's classroom. I bet your perspective would be much different!


Just another sheep.


Ever hear of, "silence is golden"?


Or, even better...."Can't argue with ignorance."


Haha, good point! You can only educate the ignorant which is what I was doing for you. However I guess you're the type who is "right" all the time; therefore, as you know everything, you're familiar with the LAW. It's something that we all have to follow and if we don't, it may cost us our jobs.


Because someone agrees with the separation of church and state does not mean they are not Christian, anti_Christian, or godless. It means that they believe in their nation and Constitution. It means that they believe in free will, that which God gave man in the garden. And many religions practice the same qualities, despite what the right wing extremist agenda would have you believe.


looks like everyone is fighting the religion thing in all countrys, its become so critical that the federal and state has got involved to control us, absurd !!!


The teacher is being paid too much, or may be part of a conspiracy. MacBook and Starbucks... really? Totally overpriced items. Where is the minimalist existence taught by most faith's? Perhaps "product placement" incentive is also behind all of this?


i think religion should be allowed in school, separation between state and church is hogwash, our country be better with some education of of faith, that's whats wrong with our country now days, nothing believe in, except fighting over their rights, religion, gay rights, you name it, im sure alot of you will debut this, that's alright,


Could you repeat that in English? How will "alot" of us "debut" that nonsense?

Obviously religious objects can be enjoyed in the home. No need to bring them to school. They will be there when you get home.


Right. Let's leave "religion" and the likes of it at home and be sure that organized prayer to our divine Creator is completely out of the picture in schools and see how well that works. Oh. Wait. We've tried that. Columbine,Newtown, and Price Middle can give us an overview of how that's going. Wake up! Do your research on statistics for teen pregnancy, abortion, teen suicide, divorce, crime, murder, gun violence...and any of the likes since 1963, when the Supreme Court gave in to Madeline O'Hare and took prayer (God) out of schools. BTW, "religious objects can be 'enjoyed' at home"? Do you really think they are in this teacher's classroom to enjoy? She's probably like countless Christian classroom teachers around our nation...having them there in her classroom for strength and courage...should an event like Newtown or Columbine unfold and she suddenly finds herself in a stand-off between death and her students. We have local elementary schools on a continuous "lockdown" now. Our babies are going through "lockdown" drills. What the? "Drills" are for fires and possible storm warnings. Now, our babies are having to practice "lockdown" and your response is that "religious objects can be enjoyed at home". The political correctness has brought with it a serious blindness to truth and has worked diligently to trample out the foundational faith of our, once, great nation. And, it's the likes of leftists, apparently such as yourself, that are destroying our culture because you want to appear intelligent and "up-to-date" with the times. It's so, so very sad. The saddest part of all, aside from the needless deaths of innocent children and adults, is that you don't see your own demise. Oh, but I'm sure you'll blame the NRA and gun-laws on that one. Always a leftist cop-out and always a finger to point. Get back to the basics...where we started as a country in the first place, where schools were created to teach the children how to read the Bible and where we were One nation under God.


Whew! Thanks for cutting that bunch of crap short!

So to be clear, your religion should be put in the face of everyone?! Because your religion is perfect and everyone in it must be perfect too? Can you provide references where I can read about these statistics you spew. The specific statistic that will PROVE what you say is true will be the one that shows that the rise in these evils you pointed out is 100% due to the absence of YOUR religion in public schools. I can't wait to read your proof!


Whew! Thanks for cutting that bunch of crap short!

So to be clear, your religion should be put in the face of everyone?! Because your religion is perfect and everyone in it must be perfect too? Can you provide references where I can read about these statistics you spew. The specific statistic that will PROVE what you say is true will be the one that shows that the rise in these evils you pointed out is 100% due to the absence of YOUR religion in public schools. I can't wait to read your proof!


Keep it out of the schools. We as parents can teach our children religious value if we choose. Imagine the uproar of the people supporting this teacher if it was Muhammad, jah, or Buddha that was on poster or allowed to be displayed. If you want religion in school select a private school for your children.


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