School bans atheist’s editorial on religion

Administrators, teachers and coaches promote “pro-Christian” beliefs at school events, wrote Krystal Myers, an atheist, in the Lenoir City High School (Tennessee) school newspaper. But school officials pulled the honor student’s editorial, claiming it would be “disruptive,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said the school district is not violating the law.

Prayers at athletic events are student-led. School board meetings do begin with a prayer, but there are usually no students present, he said.

One teacher wears T-shirts that depict the crucifix, Myers wrote. Other teachers often use Bible verses for the “Quote of the day” written on classroom boards.  Coaches encourage team prayer before competitions. “As the captain of the swim team, I feel I have to be a part of it.”

Myers also cited Lee vs. Wiseman, a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a case where a parent tried to stop a rabbi from speaking at a middle school graduation. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The school’s rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion,” the ruling said.

 If Myers editorial had run in the school newspaper — she’s the editor — would the Christians have rioted? I doubt it.


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  1. Perhaps Ms. Myers should read the various drafts of the First Amendment that the Founding Fathers went through before settling on the final wording. It is so clear that they NEVER intended for generic references to God to be completely removed from the public sphere. All the Founding Fathers intended was to prevent one Christian denomination from being favored over another as the official “Church of America” similar to the state churches that existed in Europe at the time. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that activist judges legislating from the bench decided to read a radical new interpretation that simply is not supported by an examination of the Founding Fathers’ intent in writing the First Amendment.

    • From what this young woman described, this is NOT a simple case of some generic, vague “In God We Trust”-type expression… but it looks definitely like advocacy of Christianity… and expectation that students are Christian, and that they should be encouraged to participate in Christian worship practices.

      By the way, your version of political history sound suspiciously like something you got from Glenn Beck University. (blah blah blah ACTIVIST JUDGES!!! blah blah blah RADICAL!!! agfjhgfasdffg!!!!)

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    We also need to balance “nor prohibit the free exercise thereof”.

  3. Ponderosa says:

    Sports and religion are two of the new guises of ancient tribalism. The content of Christianity is nil for most Christians I encounter. They know little or nothing of the Bible or theology or ethics. It boils down to “Christ is my team captain; I am on his team, and we’re going to beat the non-Christians.” Schools attempt to reconstitute the ancient tribe with pep rallies and sports and school spirit (“Go Falcons!); at heavily Christian schools, religion buttresses this effort. I have no interest in this project. I hate school spirit and hate religion used for tribe-building purposes.

    • I think yyou’re over generalizing to a ridiculous extent.

      • Ponderosa says:

        You’re right –there are some deeper-thinking Christians out there; I wouldn’t say they’re the majority though.

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I’m pretty religion-friendly, and I actually don’t have a problem with most of the stuff she’s describing. But I’m also free speech friendly. This seems pretty clear cut to me: it’s almost ALWAYS a mistake not to publish non-defamatory articles on the grounds of content. I’m willing to make SOME exceptions for children in schools: drug advocacy, explicit sexual content, profanity, gang-related propoganda… the usual suspects.

    But this is pretty much core political speech and it’s a poor move by the administration of the school.

    What’s more, as is noted, she’s the editor. Writing the editorials is one of the perks. I was an EiC of a school newspaper once, and I’d be DAMNED if I’d take it lying down if the school wanted to dictate what I said in my space.

    (Note: I don’t have my legal hat on while I’m writing this. This is philosopher/policy Michael, not attorney Michael.)

  5. Question for those of you who have no problem with the blatant Christianity being pushed in this school… would you have a problem if a Muslim teacher started each school day with an inspirational quote from the Koran, and wrote it on the board? How about if it was an elementary school teacher? Somehow, I doubt many of you would be praising the teacher for instilling good values if she was writing scriptures from the Koran on the board in front of your third-grader.