Mississippi school orders teachers to remove religious items from classroom. Here's why

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  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    April 3, 2019 4:38 a.m.

    @ Daniel L

    I'm not sure how you make a belief system out of atheism - or theism for that matter. Both apply to one subject and one subject only: one's position on the existence of gods. I can see them as single positions within a philosophical system, but not an entire philosophy by themselves.

    I do agree that humans generally are capable of oppressive regimes, whether housed under the name of religion or not. Dogma, mythology, and/or cult of personality appear to be some of the common factors. However, with respect to North Korea, Jong-un and his father and grandfather are believed to be gods, so theirs is a theistic regime, if not a religious one.

  • Daniel L. Salt Lake City, UT
    April 2, 2019 10:58 a.m.

    Theology is a philosophical study of God's relation to the world. Atheism is a philosophical disbelief in the existence of God. In other words - it is philosophy versus philosophy. It just so happens that Atheistic philosophy is the popular wind that happens to blow at this moment. The Constitution guarantees that the federal government will not support any one religion (i.e., philosophy) in order to promote the free sharing of ideas and thought in our country that we might obtain greater wisdom in this journey we call life.

    Religious philosophy, say some critics has stifled thought in the past and present - and that is true. Non religious philosophies have done the same and continue to do the same today. North Korea is no friend of any religious philosophy.

    The point being that any philosophy (ideas and systems of belief) have the potential to create oppressive regimes that ban and make illegal any expression outside of such approved ideas and system of thought.

    Any atheist can be just as guilty as any religious person of such oppression!

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    April 1, 2019 7:53 a.m.

    StandAlone:

    "@ the atheist

    Truth is hate only to those who hate the truth. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ, including non-Christians."

    And here comes the threats. Threats from a person who believes they are speaking for a 'loving god'.
    (Later saw that you claim these arent threats but clearly they are.)

    n8ive american:

    "Isn't atheism a form of religion? So now we have schools filled with that religion."

    No, atheism isnt a religion any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby. You are an atheist to thousands of gods man has created. I only believe in one less than you do. When you understand why you dont believe in Odin then you may start to understand why I dont believe in Yahweh.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    March 31, 2019 11:27 a.m.

    Are teachers likewise being required to remove displays of their secular beliefs including political views, social views, and other personal viewpoints? If so, then this rule can credibly be viewed as the school attempting to prevent teachers from pushing any personal view on students.

    If however, non religiois personal views can be expressed--and that would include everything from Garfield and Dilbert calendars right on up to memes regarding our President, immigrants, or any other socio-political issue--then this rule appears to be hostile to religion rather than a religiously neutral rule that happens to affect religious belief and expression no more nor differently than it affects any other personal expression.

    A school district has a legitimate interest in assuring that only official school positions are expressed by school employees when acting in their employed capacity.

    No government entity can be allowed to single out religious views to silence while permitting a-religious or even anti-religious viewpoints to be freely expressed.

  • ErinsBoy531 West Jordan, UT
    March 31, 2019 3:53 a.m.

    @TheRealDJT - Sandy, UT
    Nothing in the article said the teachers couldn’t wear a cross, or religious iconography. Only that the could not display it in the classroom. So, a Sikh student can still wear a turban. A Muslim girl can wear a hijab. A Jewish boy can wear a yarmelke. And a teacher can wear a nun’s habit.
    What the school told the teachers, was that their religious iconography cannot be in the class room. I’m sure the school allows the teachers a personal space to display whatever religious display they would choose. Just as the school would be compelled to allow a Muslim teacher time and space (read as accommodation) to pray if requested by the by the employee. But, I think there is some info missing about this story. Like, what exactly was the teacher doing with these crosses, quotes, and angels? Were they just on her desk? Or did she make reference to them throughout the day to her students, or insist the students do something with them items. There is too much missing context, and it makes this article a tad inflammatory.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    March 30, 2019 3:01 a.m.

    bassoonlady,

    I appreciate the attempt to "spin" it, but it fails.

    The statement is a totalitarian manifesto, especially invoking the image of subservience (bowing and confessing as if under duress).

    If it really was an innocuous statement of faith, as you claim, why the "bowing of the knee" in subjection?

    No, it is meant as a totalitarian threat against non-believers and non members.

    It is unfortunate that religious believers are blind to their arrogance, hubris, and oppression of others.

  • bassoonlady OREM, UT
    March 29, 2019 10:16 p.m.

    The atheist,
    The statement "every knee shall bow" is not meant to be a threat any more than saying, "at some point in the future everyone will believe in global warming because the evidence will be too great to deny." is a threat.

    It's an affirmation of our faith, saying that we believe so firmly in this truth that we believe that at some point all those who do not now believe will be unable to deny the evidence, that point being when Christ again comes to the Earth.
    I'm sorry that you see it as arrogance and a threat.

    That being said, I think that if these teachers had, say, a discrete cross on their desk meant just for them, then they shouldn't be forced to remove it. But if the religious symbol was overtly displayed in such a way that students were commonly seeing it, it should be removed.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    March 29, 2019 3:26 p.m.

    @ n8ive american - "Isn't atheism a form of religion? So now we have schools filled with that religion."

    Theism is not a religion; Catholicism is.
    Atheism is not a religion; pastafarianism is.

    A systematized belief that Joseph Smith literally and physically communed face to face with god is a religion; the absence of such a belief is NOT a religion. Atheism, as the name suggests, has no systematized beliefs.

    People grouping together around a common set of beliefs in a supernatural or supreme power is religion; NOT grouping together (because there are no common beliefs labelled as "atheism") is NOT a religion.

    Sectarianism is all about religion; secularism is not.

    Being flippant about the (lack of) beliefs of others, and condemning them because they aren't a "member" of your faith group, is characteristic of religion (or tribes, or college sports); atheists are not a "corpus" with "membership", so that concept is irrelevant to "atheism".

    Glad I could help.

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    March 29, 2019 2:03 p.m.

    I used to teach a 6th Grade class called "Introduction to Foreign Cultures" .
    We went over Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Shamanism and many other religious practices that called our attention. We discussed them as a component of the cultures that evolved around the world.

    In my 21 years of association with the Public School System, I have never seen or felt that any student or school worker has been subjected to remove any component of their attire that can be connected to their religious beliefs.

    I have taught Spanish Literature in High School and College and have quoted the Bible, the Koran and the Vedas when appropriate to illustrate a point.

    Perhaps, I am being hypocritical. But I totally agree with the school system preventing teachers from displaying dÉcor with religious connotations, particularly at the Elementary School level.

    A teachers influence on his/her students is too great to consider that there is such a thing as an innocuous object in a classroom. Everything we put in our rooms carry a message dedicated to our students.

  • n8ive american Shelley, Idaho
    March 29, 2019 1:40 p.m.

    Isn't atheism a form of religion? So now we have schools filled with that religion.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    March 29, 2019 1:34 p.m.

    "Truth is hate only to those who hate the truth. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ, including non-Christians."

    It is completely irrational arrogance like that by which you earn enemies.

  • Husker2 , 00
    March 29, 2019 12:29 p.m.

    This decision is hypocritical considering how many public schools, cities, counties, etc. have religious names. If we're going to purge religion from the public square, then we better start by changing the names of cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio, St Paul, etc.

  • Gorman Ridgecrest, CA
    March 29, 2019 11:03 a.m.

    Interesting that they require the removal of inspirational quotes from scriptures. Can we no longer quote Buddha or the Dalai Lama either? Can we only have inspirational quotes from exclusively secular people now? Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor; are his quotes also out? It's a good thing no one has started a religion about Shakespeare yet. Will we one day decide inspiring people are just too close to religious people? Oh well . . . maybe this means I can tear down all those inspirational posters plastered throughout the office that I have secretly hated all these years.

  • Sharkey Layton, UT
    March 29, 2019 10:05 a.m.

    I simply do not understand how religious people think public religious displays can possibly work. I suggest imagining the Satanists putting their symbols up in public.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 29, 2019 9:28 a.m.

    @ TheRealDJT

    "Another way to look at it: If there can be no religious symbols in classrooms, then certainly Muslim girls will be required to remove their hijabs, right ? No carrying around or storage of prayer rugs...right?"

    Students AND teachers can wear religion-themed clothing, jewelry, etc. It's on their person. Taxpayers don't pay for that. And a lot of schools offer quiet rooms for prayer/meditation. They're non-denominational; not just for god-believers. Do you see the pattern now?

  • StandAlone South Jordan, UT
    March 29, 2019 9:26 a.m.

    @ the atheist

    Truth is hate only to those who hate the truth. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ, including non-Christians.

  • StandAlone South Jordan, UT
    March 29, 2019 9:17 a.m.

    So no Christian symbols displayed in public schools, but it's okay for teachers in Madison Wisconsin to force students to "pretend they are muslim".
    And it's all right for teachers in Florida to force students to recite "the five pillars of islam" as a prayer, make islamic prayer rugs and perform other muslim rituals.
    And it's acceptable for teachers to force students in Tennessee to write a declaration that "allah is supreme".
    How interesting the Godless demand only one kind of religion be removed from the public square, while others are welcomed.

  • J. Smith Salt Lake City, UT
    March 29, 2019 9:10 a.m.

    Good, religion and its symbols have no reason to be in schools or the public. Keep them in your church..........

  • THEREALND Mishawaka, IN
    March 29, 2019 8:39 a.m.

    "A teacher having a cross on her desk is, in no way, establishing religion."

    First off, it is not the teacher's desk. It is public property. Second, if it is OK for her to display her cross on the desk she occupies would it then be OK to place them on the walls where her class takes place? And if that's OK, why not hang a cross in the hallway on the door leading into the classroom. How about hanging a cross outside "her" school at the entrance.

    Removing the religious material from school is what in no way establishes a religion.

    Ironically, it was in Utah that a school teacher made a student wash a cross off of his forehead.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    March 29, 2019 8:17 a.m.

    This is the correct decision.

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    March 29, 2019 8:09 a.m.

    Imagine the brown storm that faux news and todays fake conservatives would be producing if this were a bunch of Muslim teachers filling their classrooms with Islamic iconography. But because its xians who are doing it we will all be hearing about 'religious freedom'.

    For context look back to the proposed mosque in downtown Manhattan and the fit the right collectively thru. They acted as if somehow all of downtown was suppose to become a xians only zone or something. We sure didnt hear any of them 'standing up for religious freedom'.

    Xians, particularly right wing xians in this country are really starting to miss their position of power as more and more people leave religion.

    Muslims think they are right and xians are wrong.
    Xians think they are right and Muslims are wrong.
    I think they are both half right.

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    March 29, 2019 8:01 a.m.

    "If prayer is not speech to God, then what is it?"
    I believe it is talking to yourself and getting the answer you wanted.

    "How can anyone believe they have the right to tell you and I who we can talk to?"
    I read the story and didnt see anything resembling that.

    "People burn the American flag because somebody said that the first amendment protects "freedom of expression"."
    Yes, so? When a teacher does it in class then you can complain.

    "Religious symbols and scripture passages should also be protected as "freedom of expression"."
    And they are. Any teacher can cover their property with all the crosses they want. They cant fill their classrooms in a PUBLIC school with them.

    "They are using the first amendment to destroy the very things that the first amendment was intended to protect."
    Are you claiming the writers of the constitution meant to include a provision for teachers to force their religion on their classrooms, but just forgot? Weird.

    "When students in a Montana school wore black armbands ... rights do not end at the school house door."
    Exactly. Students.

    "Teachers constitutional rights don't end at the door either."
    Their right to force religion does.

  • TheRealDJT Sandy, UT
    March 29, 2019 7:46 a.m.

    Another way to look at it:

    If there can be no religious symbols in classrooms, then certainly Muslim girls will be required to remove their hijabs, right ? No carrying around or storage of prayer rugs...right?

    Sikh men will be required to shave and wear no turban...right?

    Or do the rules only go against Christians ? hmmmm......

  • RiDal Sandy, UT
    March 29, 2019 7:42 a.m.

    Well, the devil really is in the details.
    A teacher should not be allowed to impose her religious beliefs on children.
    But that is not quite the same as a requirement to purge classrooms of all religious symbols.

    The truth is that the Constitution clearly delineates the right to "free expression of religion", while there simply is no "freedom from religion". The mere presence of religious symbols, but teachers and or students, is not in any way imposing anything on anyone. It is their right of free expression of religion.
    Sorry, athiests. Freedom of religion is the price we all pay for "freedom", including the freedom to be an atheist.

  • Justinstitches American Fork, UT
    March 29, 2019 6:55 a.m.

    The freedom of religion in the 1st Amendment was written to prevent the nation having an official national religion, such as England have their official religion being Anglican or other countries have the Roman Catholic religion. It meant that everyone has the right to belong to any religion or no religion. At the time the amendment was written a national religion required worship in that church if you wanted government employment, attend state schools, or even own a business (depending on the country).

    It was never intended to keep people from expressing their religious faith in any forum. A teacher having a cross on her desk is, in no way, establishing religion. As long as the teacher is respectful of other faiths and doesn’t force her students to follow her beliefs no harm is done.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    March 29, 2019 6:52 a.m.

    @The Rock - Federal Way, WA
    March 28, 2019 10:47 p.m.
    The first amendment guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
    If prayer is not speech to God, then what is it? How can anyone believe they have the right to tell you and I who we can talk to?"

    There's also separation of church and state. You can talk to whomever/whatever you want. But, when you're in a government owned school and receiving a government paycheck, keep your religion to yourself. Plenty of time to pray or whatever at home and on your lunch break. If you really need church/religious stuff all day, go work for a church.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 29, 2019 5:38 a.m.

    @ The Rock

    "When students in a Montana school wore black armbands..."

    That's the distinction. They were students, not teachers. Students aren't government employees. Public school teachers are and are subject to 1st Amendment restrictions of government favoring a belief system.

    And do you really believe the Christians in this community would stand for it if a teacher who is Muslim, Pagan, or whatever populated his/her classroom with items representing their faith? We already know the answer because we have examples of Christians with this mindset suddenly becoming quite willing to remove their religious displays from public property when they realize it means that others, like The Satanic Temple, also have the right to put up theirs.

    The Christians that complain about things like this have no idea what a service organizations like the FFRF are doing for them. They're actually protecting them from thoughtlessly undermining a fundamental right that protects them too.

  • unrepentant progressive Bozeman, MT
    March 29, 2019 5:38 a.m.

    A teacher is the public official in the eyes of his/her charges in the classroom. A representative of the power structure that puts order into their young lives.

    It is coercive for this public person to overtly display religious symbols into the classroom. Period.

    A child who comes from a family with a different expression of religion or no expression of religion will be under the impression that the teacher is the authority figure for which they must accede in all things. And I doubt it ends with symbols.

    I don't think any parent of any particular religious sect wants their child to feel coerced by an outsider. This is not a case of religious freedom for the teacher. It is a case for religious freedom from coercion for young people.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    March 29, 2019 5:26 a.m.

    Good decision. Religious activists are trying to violate the Constitution and inject their religion into the public. It must not be allowed.

    This is NOT "a Christian nation" - never was, never will be. This is and must remain an inclusive, diverse and secular nation.

    The so-called prophecy that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that jesus is the christ" is an ominous threat against non-believers and non-christians, and constitutes intolerant hate speech.

  • THEREALND Mishawaka, IN
    March 29, 2019 3:57 a.m.

    I don't see this as an attack on the teacher's freedom of religion or freedom of expression. As the complaint states, it is "religious displays on district property" that crosses the line. The teacher cannot use public property to promote or display her beliefs. The teacher is not being asked to remove any symbol from her person. Wearing a necklace with a Latin cross is far different from hanging a Latin cross on the wall. This is truly a "no-brainer".

    "The law has been turned against itself. They are using the first amendment to destroy the very things that the first amendment was intended to protect."

    The law and the first amendment is being used as intended.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    March 28, 2019 10:47 p.m.

    The first amendment guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

    If prayer is not speech to God, then what is it? How can anyone believe they have the right to tell you and I who we can talk to?

    People burn the American flag because somebody said that the first amendment protects "freedom of expression". Religious symbols and scripture passages should also be protected as "freedom of expression".

    The law has been turned against itself. They are using the first amendment to destroy the very things that the first amendment was intended to protect.

    When students in a Montana school wore black armbands as a political statement in the 1960's, the Supreme Court ruled that a student's constitutional rights do not end at the school house door. Teachers constitutional rights don't end at the door either.