A dispute that erupted when a schoolteacher in Tennessee snatched a cross necklace from a student before allowing the child into a book fair has been resolved with an apology from the teacher, and the school.
The organization, known for fighting for religious rights across American and around the world, explained it was a “big win for religious freedom.”
And the message sent by the resolution was not to “mess with the faith of our kids.”
“Not long ago, we told you about a Tennessee middle school student who wore a cross around his neck to school. When the child entered the school library for a book fair, an event that many of us still remember looking forward to each year, he was greeted instead by a teacher who took the cross,” the organization explained.
“That alone would be startling enough to any kid, but this educator did so in front of numerous other students, as if to add to the child’s humiliation.”
The ACLJ said it responded with a letter to the school, explaining that the teacher’s behavior was inexcusable and, actually, a violation of the students’ constitutional rights.
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The ACLJ informed the school that under guidance in place at the time, “Students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are permitted to display other comparable messages. Religious messages may not be singled out for suppression, but rather are subject to the same rules as generally apply to comparable messages.”
That would mean unless the school made sure that it confiscated, censored or removed all “logos, quotes, product placements, or any other messaging or imagery in general that might possibly be offensive to someone” from every student, it had no right to interfere with the student’s cross.
“Certainly, the wearing of a cross necklace is not impeding the ability of other students to learn or participate in classroom activities. Had the teacher singled out a Muslim student or a child of any other faith – even an atheist student – odds are there would be a media uproar and protests outside the school,” the legal team explained.
The school responded with an assurance to the ACLJ that no policy at the school would prevent the student from wearing the cross necklace.
Then a meeting was held, and the school, through the teacher, the vice principle and community superintendent, apologized for the teacher’s actions.
“We are pleased that that our attorneys were able to resolve the issue without having to go to court, which would have been the likely next step,” the ACLJ reported.
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