Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Final Post--First Amendment!!

Well, we're getting closer and closer to the end of the semester (sniff...!), but first (no pun intended!) we're gonna tackle one more tricky topic, the First Amendment--specifically the Establishment Clause and the issue of "church & state" and how--as Mr. Mueller told you all last week--that issue gets even trickier when dealing with the setting of a public school.

You read an excerpt from "The Nine" that described some cases from the 1990s and early 2000s dealing with 'religion in the public square' and we discussed those in class earlier this week, but for these blog comments we're going to look at some much more recent instances of controversy arising around religion in schools--is it about Government Establishment of Religion or is it about Free Speech?

Click Here for a New York Times article that describes many recent cases in which students, teachers, or administrators have been criticized for to some degree bringing religious activities into the public school setting. In some cases they wound up being punished for it; in others they simply stopped doing whatever they were doing and as a result faced no tangible consequence.  After reading the article, consider the following questions:
  • Of all the situations described in the article, which one did you find the MOST troubling? Or put another way, which one struck you as the most obviously unconstitutional? Why?
  • Of all the situations described in the article, which one did you find the LEAST troubling (which would you consider the 'safest' in terms of its constitutionality)? Why?
  • What were some similarities or connections you noticed between any of the situations described in the article and any of the discussions we've had in class, either with me or from the day Mr. Mueller was there?
In addition to reading that article, I'd also like you to watch a few short video clips before posting your comments.  First, Click Here to watch a segment from Fox News about a Texas elementary school in which students were prohibited from passing out candy canes at a holiday party because there were notes attached to the candy canes that had religious messages on them.
  • I realize you don't have all the background or context and you're basing it just on having watched this short video, but what was your take on this situation? Do you think the school did the right thing?
  • Which of the two guests on the show did you think made the stronger argument? Why?
The last story deals with something that happened--also in Texas--just last year. The valedictorian at a high school near San Antonio wanted to include a short prayer in her graduation speech and say "Amen" at the end. The family of an agnostic student objected and filed suit to prevent her from including this religious content in her speech. At first a judge ruled in favor of the agnostic student, but on the day of the graduation the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and ruled in favor of the valedictorian, so she was able to give the speech she wanted to. Click Here to watch a short CNN interview with the agnostic student who objected as well as his mother, and Click Here to watch a short interview with the valedictorian and her lawyer.
  • What was your take on this situation?  Did you find yourself agreeing more with Ms. Hildenbrand (the valedictorian) or with the Schultz family (who filed the original suit)? Why?
  • If the Class of 2012 valedictorian at CHS wanted to include a prayer in his/her speech this June at your graduation, would you have a problem with it? Why/why not?
Remember, TWO comments per student. The first one is for you to answer all the bullet point questions above about the NY Times article and the videos, and the second comment is for you to agree/disagree with something one of your classmates has posted.  As long as your comments are posted by the end of the day on which you take your final (Tuesday for 1st period, Wednesday for 4th), you're good.  Thanks for a FANTASTIC semester, I can't wait to read your comments, and I hope you stay interested in these issues and all things relating to government and politics long after you finish our class!

Silvy :)


  1. After reading the article, I found that the situation pertaining to the students having pencils taken away from them because they had Christian messages on them and not being allowed to say Merry Christmas to the soldiers to be the most unconstitutional. I feel that the school shouldn’t be able to take away pencils because religious things were on them. To me that is violating the first amendment rights because they aren’t inciting others to practice the religion nor are they truly promoting it by say handing them out. I also feel that stopping children from writing Merry Christmas should not be allowed either. I don’t think that in writing that they are insulting any other religions.
    The situation that I found most constitutional was the one pertaining to the teacher preaching to students with a bullhorn and citing the Bible as fact in class. I think that in doing so, the teachers are affecting the minds of these children and perhaps changing their opinions on certain ideas. They did the right thing in stopping this promotion of religion because they should not be allowed to use prayer in a public setting. The one I found most similar to the situations we have discussed in class was the one pertaining to the teachers leading students in prayer and Bible study and allowing the distribution of Bibles during school hours. This happened recently at our school with the handing out of pamphlets outside our school. Personally, I don’t think that this behavior should be allowed near a school regardless of whether or not it is actually on the school property. To me this is direct incitement of religion and forcing the opinions of a certain religion on others and is not a protected first amendment right in that sense.
    I think that the school did the right thing in stopping the students from passing out candy canes that had religious messages attached. To me, this is forcing a religion onto others and therefore, not protected under the first amendment. I think that students should be allowed to practice their own religion, however, when it crosses over onto others, I think that it should be stopped. I found that Jennifer Brandt was much more convincing in arguing her point. I felt that Nelson saying that this is an opportunity for children to learn tolerance is a bit farfetched because students should not have to be forced into taking something about another religion if they don’t believe the same things. Jennifer’s arguments that the behavior was coercive so the school had the right to prohibit the behavior was extremely valid. It is very disruptive to students who may not believe in God. Jennifer stated that the school has a duty to make sure education is the main focus not religion and in doing so they must stop the forcing of religion on others.
    Finally, in regards to the issue over the valedictorian speech, I found myself agreeing more with the Schultz family who filed the original suit. I think that their argument that they need to respect the religion of everyone was very convincing. They thought that there is clearly a separation of church and state stated in the Constitution, therefore, they have a right to a religion neutral environment. I also agreed that it wasn’t appropriate for the school to allow the promotion of a religion or Christianity over any other religion. I think that Hildenbrand didn’t have the right to say a prayer in her speech. The argument that the government has no right to censor private religious speech doesn’t apply to the case because she is publicly endorsing the religion in front of the entire graduating class and in this she should not be allowed to promote any religion or another or force it upon others. To me, I don’t think anyone should be forced to listen to another religion is they don’t want to and no one should be allowed to promote a religion in a school situation. Though I many not have an issue with it, I feel that others would and in that respect, I wouldn’t want that to happen at a graduation speech for the sake of the others who would not condone it.

    1. I found that the schools in inn Sumner County, Tennessee troubled me pretty deeply. I can not believe teachers were allowed to lead students in prayer and Bible study. The school even allowed Gideons International to distribute Bibles during school hours. I would feel very awkward going to school in Sumner County if I was not religious. I would probably get harassed every day by teachers and students if I did not participate in the religious activities.

      The situation in Baltimore schools was not very appalling to me. The teacher was just holding prayer services to help students prepare for a standardized test. To me the, it seems implied that the service was optional. Also, the tone of the situation did not seem like the teacher was forcing anyone to participate.

      I definitely agree that the school did the right thing. You should not be expressing or trying to spread your religion and at a public school. It is not the right time to be spreading the Christmas spirit; many of kids might feel uncomfortable if they believed in a different religion. It could also cause problems between kids in school. I think if the candy canes had no religious writing on them it would have been fine. I think the guy made the best argument by backing up his arguments with the constitution.

      I do not agree with Hildenbrand on the graduation speech situation. The Schultz family is taking it way out of hand. Saying a prayer during a speech does not have much impact on the students. If the teachers were forcing student to say the prayer, it would be a much different situation. I would not have a problem if the valedictorian of Coronado included a prayer in her graduation speech. It is what they believe and it is not going to harm anyone.

  2. The scenario which I found to be the most clearly unconstitutional was the public middle school assembly in Jefferson, South Carolina in which a preacher and a rapper were sermonizing, rousing their audience to "step forward to pledge themselves to Christ". Those that stayed in their seats must have felt horribly uncomfortable, and it almost certainly interfered with their ability to learn, which is what they were in school for. And since it was organized by the principal, it's a blatant violation of the Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s which forbid "official promotion of religion in schools". This public school is also decorated with the Ten Commandments, pictures of Jesus, crosses, and bibles, and the principal often starts off school programs with a prayer. It all creates an environment which is highly discomforting for a student who does not identify himself or herself as a Christian. Mr. Mueller said that when something impedes a student from learning it is encroaching on his or her rights, it is unconstitutional, and it cannot be allowed in school. The aggressive pushing of religion at this South Carolina middle school is out of control, and certainly unconstitutional.
    The case in which students were "banned from writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers" is the least troubling to me. I do think it's a little harsh, and it would have been better to advise the students to respect the unknown religious beliefs of the soldier who would be receiving their card rather than outright ban the phrase of Merry Christmas. But I also think that nobody's free speech is being silenced in this situation and it's nothing to get upset over.
    After watching the video about the elementary school in Texas in which students were prohibited from passing out candy canes with Christian messages on them to their entire class, I have to agree with the school administration's reasoning. The distribution of these candy canes was most certainly disruptive to learning, and that in itself gave them a reason to shit it down. I found the woman's argument far more convincing, and would even say that I thought the man's argument was terribly unconvincing. He based his case off the assertion that the reason the kids could't hand out the candy canes was because they were in first grade. He said that the Constitution guarantees free speech for all, regardless of age--yet i find this information useless when students in a public high school would not have been allowed to pass out these candy canes either. It was not a question of age, but a question of pushing religion on all the other students in their class, and creating a tension-filled environment which disrupted learning.
    I definitely agree with the boy who filed that lawsuit over the valedictorian's school-wide prayer. That graduation belonged to everyone, and was supposed to be special for everyone, not just the valedictorian and the other Christians of the school. And as the boy's mother said, the school was promoting not only religion over no religion, but Christianity over any other religion. If the CHS valedictorian of 2012 wanted to include a prayer in the speech, I would not file a lawsuit, but I would be uncomfortable with the idea--it's just an unnecessary addition that would cause more trouble than it's worth. It could offend scores of family members in the audience, and would generally create an atmosphere of anxiety on a day that's supposed to be filled with nothing but joy, celebration and nostalgia.

  3. I agree with Olivia's statement that allowing the first graders to pass out their Christian-messaged candy canes and turning it into a learning experience about tolerance was an under-thought notion. The better lesson on tolerance would be explaining to them why it wasn't nice to press religion on their classmates.

  4. I agree with what Natalie had to say about the middle school assembly in Jefferson, South Carolina. I think that having a preacher and rapper talking to students and preaching to them about a specific religion is wrong and not only that, but they had the audience step forward to pledge themselves to Christ. To me this is ridiculous because the students who were left sitting at that point were probably feeling uncomfortable. I agree with Natalie in saying that this interfered with their ability to learn and that education should be the focus while at school. I also agree that this is crossing over into the classroom setting and disrupting the students' abilities to learn and this is unconstitutional.

  5. In the article all of the cases discussed didn't seem too big of a deal, but the last part of the article describing the prayer assemblies bothered me most. I think that assemblies disrupt school time and can make certain children feel very isolated. The quote in the article comparing learning about the bible to learning about evolution seems like a solid point, but no one holds multiple assemblies about evolution. Evolution is learned in a biology class along with about 29 other students, not the whole school. I think holding events like this shows a promotion between church and state and therefore should be limited, or not sponsored by the school's principal.
    The least concerning issue was that of the principal and students praying before standardized testing. It really only would occur once a year, and no one would be scorned for not saying "Amen" when the prayer was over. I think the way it was dealt with also shows how mild this is. School sports teams participate in non-required prayer before games sometimes despite being a public school and no ones time gets cut for not praying, and no one is affected by not praying if they choose not to, and I assume this case was a similar situation. Not a big deal.
    A lot of these cases all filed in to the grey area of whether they should be allowed or not. Like the sample situations we went through with Mr. Mueller, most of these events weren't obviously unconstitutional or obviously fine action. Schools have a tough responsibility deciding what actions to take and what is and isn't appropriate in a school environment.
    In the scenario where school officials took away the candy canes with religious messages on them, they had good intentions. I think that a atheist kid coming home with that candy cane would have cause more trouble than what is going on now. I think that the students handing out messages about what they believed about Christmas at a CHRISTMAS PARTY- not holiday party- is appropriate though. I don't think there's harm in sharing what is believed by many to be why we have Christmas in the first place. And chances are, most kids wouldn't think twice about the message and no one would be disturbed by it at the school.
    Although the woman in the debate talked louder and over the other gentleman, I thought she was repetitive and jumped to conclusions. The man in the discussion I thought held more reasonable points and no one was being forced to take one of these candy canes. Like the man said, they could have easily been thrown away.
    I feel Ike the Shultz family picked the wrong case to bring to court. Mrs. Shultz clarified that they didn't have a problem with students upholding their first amendment rights, but instead had issues with the principal and other school administrators favoring religious beliefs. I do believe that the case was ruled wrongly the first time. Angela should be free to say what she wishes so long as it is not specifically demeaning to other students. "irreparable harm" is too big a phrase to be in reference to a prayer at a graduation speech.
    If someone at the CHS graduation wanted to include a prayer I wouldn't mind at all, but I am Christian so I can also understand why it would make other people uncomfortable. It would be my hope though that no one would be offended if someone prayed at graduation. It isn't demeaning or hurtful, and in my opinion it doesn't leave anyone outcast. A lot of the ceremony I think people tune out to anyway, so those who don't want to pray could tune out of this part too.

  6. I don't agree with Natalie's comment about a prayer causing anxiety. The whole speech would, chances are, not be about God, and coming from one student, a prayer would not be disruptive. The whole graduation is made up of multiple speeches and ideas. Saying Amen at the end of one of them is not going to make "scores" of family members disturbed. The people who care enough to not participate don't have to and I think because everything is well intended, no ones feelings are going to be hurt.

  7. Out of all the scenarios, I found that the one in Jefferson, South Carolina about the preacher and a rapper soliciting students to "step forward and pledge themselves to Christ" was the most unconstitutional. The fact that this happened in a school and was prompted by the principal is completely crossing the line. If I was involved in a situation like that, I would feel extremely uncomfortable, as I'm sure some students did. Despite it being a primarily Christian town, the rules of separation of church and state should still be respected.
    On the other hand, the issue regarding the teacher in Pensacola, Florida citing the Bible as a fact in class is the least troubling to me. Although teachers are supposed to keep their religious preferences private, I don't see a serious problem with using the Bible as literature. There are various novels and poems that have biblical allusions in them, and knowing about some Bible stories or lessons can be useful in understanding those works. For instance, the AP Literature test has poems on it that may have biblical allusions, which means that your grade on the test could be based upon your knowledge of the Bible as literature.
    The case with Mr. Stinson where it mentions having the Ten Commandments posted in his school's lobby reminds me of our class discussion regarding the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments being posted in a courthouse. Both instances seem unconstitutional to me because the school and the courts are both supposed to be separate from the influences of religion. Sure most of the federal laws resonate with the commandments, but it is not fair to say that the decisions of the courthouse, or of a school in this case, are bound by religious confinements.
    In the scenario in Texas where the school banned the elementary students from passing out candy cane pens with religious messages, I believe that the school did not do the right thing. Although the notes on the pens were religious in nature, the other students weren't forced to take them. It was a simple act of kindness from the children handing out holiday gifts. Moreover, their first amendment rights should not be infringed upon simply because they are so young. I agree that young kids are impressionable, but the pens being distributed were not offensive or harmful. In my opinion, the man on the show, Ted Nelson, made a stronger argument. His point is that there is no age restriction regarding the Constitution and that since 1969, the courts have been judging constitutionality on whether the situation/case is harmful or disruptive to other people. I agree with his point that if you don't like the candy cane pens, then simply throw them away. They were not given out to be harmful or controversial.
    While watching the arguments about the valedictorian speeches at a high school in Texas, I found myself agreeing more with Ms. Hildenbrand, not the Schultz family that filed the suit. I think that Erin, the valedictorian, should be able to say whatever she wants in her speech. It is not something she is forcing on anyone; she is accepting an honor and should be able to do so in whichever way she pleases. I don't see a problem with including a prayer in her speech because it is not something read by a school official or publicly condoned by the school. It's a personal speech that reflects the way that the student feels. If the valedictorian of the class of 2012 wanted to include a prayer in his/her speech, I would not have a problem. The audience's feelings toward religion shouldn't matter since nothing is being forced. If an agnostic or atheist student does not agree with the prayer or does not want to participate, he or she does not have to.

  8. I find the first situation described in the article, the prayer rally in Jefferson was the most obviously unconstitutional. The principal abused his authority and used it for “official promotion of religion in schools” which is specifically deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale. What I find most disturbing about the prayer rally is that the principal most likely had to pay for the preacher and rapper to have the assembly because school speakers are nearly always paid for by the school. The principal does not have the right to organize an assembly for students in which his personal beliefs are shoved down student throats, and he definitely does not have the right to spend school funds for such an assembly when it could go towards a multitude of other much more educational and much more constitutional purposes. Not only are the prayer rally, the Ten Commandments poster, the Bibles and cross in the school’s main office blatant violations of separation of church and state, but they also create an uncomfortable and potentially hostile environment for non-Christian students. The prayer rally was brought to light because a student was harassed for his personal beliefs. However on the opposite side of the spectrum, I find it deeply troubling that in one case “students were banned from writing Merry Christmas to soldiers.” Students should be free to express their personal beliefs however they want in school unless it interferes with other students’ learning which writing Merry Christmas in a letter to a solider certainly does not. I really can’t decide which situation is the least troubling or safest in terms of constitutionality. They were all very troubling for me.
    The cases in which “children had pencils ripped out of their hands” because they carried a Christian message and students were “banned from writing Merry Christmas to soldiers” reminded me a lot of the scenario that Mr. Mueller talked to us about in which students’ message of “Free Iran” on the spirit benches was painted over. I think that the administration in all of those cases went overboard in their attempt to ensure that things did not interfere with students’ ability to learn.
    In the case of the candy canes and pens with religious messages, I do think that the school did the right thing. Constitutional amendments apply to everyone regardless of age, but these rights can be restricted. The candy and pens could have created an uncomfortable environment for some students that would have inhibited the students’ ability to learn. I think that Jennifer Brandt was the most convincing and made the stronger argument. I agree with her that the free exchange of ideas is completely different from forcing your beliefs on another. Overall, Brandt just seemed more knowledgeable and coherent.
    Although, I think that schools shouldn’t promote any one religion, I think that Ms. Hildrenbrand had a right to say a prayer in her valedictorian speech. After all, she is not representing the school or the state and should be free to express her personal beliefs. Yes, the prayer may have made some people uncomfortable, but the First Amendment was created to protect the right of free speech regardless of whether or not people agree with what is being said and whether or not it makes people uncomfortable. At that point in time, the speech wouldn’t have interfered with anyone’s learning ability because they’re graduating.
    Personally, I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable if our valedictorian wanted to include a prayer in his/her speech. Even though much of our student body is Christian, there are many who are not. I think it would make more than a few students uncomfortable which would put a damper on the otherwise joyous occasion. However, I do believe that the valedictorian has the constitutional right to include the prayer.

  9. I disagree with Olivia's argument that the school did the right thing in stopping the children from handing out candy cane pens with religious messages on them. The students were not forced to take the gifts handed out by their classmates, and therefore, it is not an infringement on their rights. I saw it as an act of kindness that did not have to taken if someone's beliefs were different.

  10. I agree with Jordan on the case of a teacher citing the Bible in class. Last year in AP Language, there were several biblical allusions and symbolism in symbolism in poems and novels. Understanding them would definitely help a student's comprehension of the works. However, I think that there's a big difference between teaching the Bible as a piece of literature and preaching.
    I also agree with Jordan about the Schultz family suit. Even though they filed suit because Ms. Hildenbrand included a prayer in her valedictorian speech, it seemed that it wasn't the biggest problem for them, but rather the school administration including promoting Christianity.

  11. After reading the first article in the New York Times, I found that that the principle and faculty who held the assembly with the rapper preaching about God was the most obviously unconstitutional. They cannot do that period. It violates the Constitutions First Amendment preventing the merging of Church and State. By doing so, the entire faculty and 324 students who professed their faith towards God were imposing and forcing their beliefs onto the other students who do not agree with them. Despite the fact that attending the assembly was "optional", Jefferson is still a public school and the merging to church and state is against the law. It is that simple. They faculty cannot promote a religion just because "Jesus represents everything we want our students to live by." It is violating what the other students who are atheist or Buddhist or Muslim believe. What I found to be the least controversial was the teachers who took the pens away from the students because they had pens that promoted the worship of God. These teachers did the right thing by taking these pens away. However insignificant they may seem, that pen inscribed with bible verses may prove to be very offensive to another student and may cause a disturbance or conflict at the school. The teacher was simply trying to prevent an establishment of religion within the school so as to display a neutrality within the classroom. Connections I made with this article and what we talked about with Mr. Muller was that they are both in gray areas where no one is really sure how to approach the situation. To prevent the teachers for holding such assembly's is restricting upon their rights to free speech; however, to do nothing is to allow the merging of religion and state. This is a very tricky subject. However the fact remains that they held this assembly in a public school. If they really want to be able to preach to students the word of God every day, then open a private school where you can praise God in every single classroom.
    On the candy cane issue and another school in Texas I am in total agreement with the administrators decision to take away the candy cane pens. These were not just simple pens, they had notes written with them that imposed one students beliefs upon another. Despite the students free speech rights, whomever passed out those candy can pens cannot do that. They have imposed their beliefs upon another student and for the school to do nothing would show that the school supports that students religious preferences and cause a merge of church and state. That student wouldn't enjoy if another kid passed our Darwin pens stating that evolution is why we are here today. These kids need to keep in mind that not everyone holds their same beliefs and that by doing this, he may have disturbed a students ability to gain an education or seriously offended another student. Thus I also believe that the woman made a much stronger argument. The man was very vague throughout his entire speech and frankly never go to what he was trying to defend. While the female reporter on the other hand made statements on how this was not a simple stating of beliefs, it was a student imposing his beliefs on an entire classroom and that could have seriously offended someone.
    Finally with the two videos involving a prayer in a Valedictorian speech, I in agreement the Shultz family. This was clearly offensive towards one of the students. The girl needs to be conscious of what other people beliefs are and try to avoid offending them. Although it may just be a simple prayer, the result can be much much more serious than that. A student could be seriously offended by this and start a conflict with the girl over her beliefs.
    If the valedictorian wanted to put in a prayer in his or her speech, it would not offend me in any way. I do not care what or who you pray to. Putting in a prayer in your speech would not seriously offend me or alter my beliefs.

    1. I have to disagree with Nick regarding the valedictorian prayer. Sure, the prayer might have been offensive towards one student, and maybe more, but how could it affect someone other than simply offending them? If we based constitutional violation off of a person's opinion on what is offensive or not, there would be a tremendous amount of ridiculous lawsuits going around. The prayer can be deemed offensive if it supports acts of violence against others or includes phrases aimed at defiling other religions. THATS offensive. The speech this girl gave was giving thanks to everyone around her for their support, and thanking the troops for keeping our country free. If the Schultz's believe this to be offensive, then it is my opinion that the Schultz's were really just trying to bring up a lawsuit on flimsy claims, and hoping to get something out of it. Further research into the matter may prove me wrong, but my opinion stands at the moment. Here's the speech that the girl gave, and you see if it was worth going to court for:

  12. -Of all the situations, I found the assembly where the preacher and rapper told people to “pledge themselves to Christ”, the most troubling. The assembly was in a public school, and therefore a lecture on religion is a violation of the constitution. Furthermore the school organizes an assembly, so therefore the school is promoting religion.
    -The situation I found least troubling was passing out bibles during class. The bible is referenced a lot in literature classes, so they could have been passed out to read for literature, not for religious purposes.
    -Some similarities I noticed between the situations in the article and the ones Mr. Meuller talked about was the fact that where the incidents were taking place is what mattered the most. If it were in private settings it was ok, but on school property it was not.
    -I think the school did do the right thing. They followed the rules about religion in public schools, and the principles were probably just trying to prevent lawsuits or complaints from parents.
    -I think that Jennifer Brandt made the better argument, she discussed the rules for public schools to take away certain rights such as freedom of speech in regards to religion on public ground, and sounded like she knew what she was talking about.
    -I find myself agreeing with the valedictorian in this situation. All she wanted to do was say a prayer in her own speech, wishing her fellow classmates the best. It was her speech, so therefore she could write whatever she wanted. She wasn’t pushing religion on anyone; she was just saying her own prayer for herself that everyone was listening to.
    -I wouldn’t have a problem with our valedictorian putting a prayer in their speech, it’s their speech they should be able to do whatever they want as long as they’re not lecturing everyone to adopt their religion.

    1. I agree with Caroline that Jennifer Brandt made the better argument in the presented clip. She made a good point that the school was probably being overzealous about the matter so as to avoid complaints from the community and prevent ensuing lawsuits.

  13. -I agree with Natalie about the assembly being the most unconstitutional. I thought she made a good point about how everyone who wasn’t religious would feel uncomfortable and how the principle was promoting religion since he organized the assembly. If i were in an assemble where people were praying and rapping about their religion, i would be mad. Thats something you do at youth group, or in a catholic school.

  14. I agree with Jordan where the school principle at Jefferson promoted the rapper preaching to students to step forward and pledge themselves to Christ is absolutely crossing the line. It is a simple matter of fact that in public schools a teacher(s) cannot support or impose a religion in front of other students during school hours. Doing so is against the Constitution and should not be tolerated. Go and create a private school if you really want to praise God that much. Leave the public schools to their unbiased and neutral beliefs however where no one side is favored and students can learn in peace without being disturbed by another students beliefs being so rudely imposed on them.

  15. I felt the situation regarding the children's ability to say Merry Christmas in cards to the troops to be the most troubling thing to me. In this instance, it is not a matter of religious intolerance, or an attempt to press a religion onto another person: this was a situation where the message was not a religious statement, but a wishing of good will to soldiers over the holidays. I think that the point of making the religious messages in candy canes a point where it is based on religious separation a ridiculously stupid idea, since it was based on the idea of the historic relevance of the given information, at least in accordance with the belief of the individuals.
    Continuing on this idea, I think that the idea that an individual trying to shut down the valedictorians speech is among the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. Hearing somebody pray should not bother an individual, and there is absolutely no reason that if you do not believe in a given religion, hearing somebody talk about that religion would bother you. I am not Christian, but I don't feel uncomfortable in a church or anything. The simple idea that trying to distribute cheer through traditional holiday greetings is considered religious intolerance is stupid.

  16. The case that I found most troubling was the one dealing with the middle school rally with the rapper who called children to come to Jesus. I thought that this definitely forcing his views on others in a public environment at a public function. In this case the opposing party wins. The case which troubled me the least was the one dealing with children writing with pencils the had religious messages on them and the inability to send cards to soldiers that said "Merry Christmas". I feel that in this case, the children are not pushing their beliefs on others. Also, with respect to the pencils, those pencils were the property of the children, I feel that it was wrong for the officials to grab them out of their hands. A similarity between all of the cases was that they were all argued as violations of freedom of religion and speech.

    With regards to the video, I don't think that the school did the right thing, because I believe that these kids were not forcing their religion on anyone. I don't think that this passing out of candy canes that have a note saying that Jesus is the reason for the season would cause any lasting harm or that it is dangerous. These are little children at a christmas party (yes it is a school function, but it is a christmas party nonetheless) and these children are ignorant of the constitution. They have no idea why they are being restricted from doing what they view as an act of good will. Because the passing of candy canes is not an imminent threat or an absolute forcing of their views to those at the party, I think that they should have been able to quietly pass out their candy canes.

    With respect to the valedictorian, I believe that the state was right. It was her right to free speech to say what she wanted to say at her graduation speech. However, I think that in both videos, each side said the wrong things. The Agnostics said that they supported a students rights to say what they want at their graduation, and that they disagree with officials promoting christianity, however, these people are trying to infringe on the valedictorian's (a student) right to say what she wanted to say at her graduation. In the other video, the lawyer kept saying that it was "private" but clearly, a high school graduation is public. I think that the agonists argued against the wrong thing with respect to what was happening at the school.

    1. Kat don't be a hater. The Schultz family asked for a moment of silence instead of an announced prayer, which is a ceremony exclusive to Christians, if there is a prayer . The point of America is to be that land of the free. "They have a right to a religion neutral environment" says Mrs. Schultz, who also says the school is rather in favor of Christianity. By taking this lawsuit to the court, they are fighting for the respect of all religion, and the freedom of religion. I do agree it was a bit unclear, since they did say they aren't against students voicing a prayer though...I was like whaa? But yeah. I'm team Schultz. <3

    2. Geez Jenny...u don't be such a hater. Somebody's moody today. The Schultz family is wrong in this case. If it is a land of the free, then why are the making it a land of the restricted in order to try and fail to appease everyone. It is absolutely impossible to have a religion neutral environment. Religion or personal beliefs are so much a part of who people are that it is impossible to just contain it. People have a natural desire to express what they believe, and that is why are nation is so cool, it is SUPPOSED to allow us to do that. In this case it is doing the exact opposite, which is why I am Team V! and so ya think about it. . . Team Schulze lost because they picked the wrong battle and had the wrong strategies as well as the complete wrong wording. . . did u even watch the video? She completely contradicted herself there by saying that they weren't opposed to Students saying what they wanted to at graduation... yet, they are attacking a Valedictorian's right to do so. That just sounds a little messed up to me. Go team V!!! </3 okbye

  17. I think the most troubling of the cases was the first one described in the article. Having a religious speaker come talk to a body of students who are not all of the same religious background, a choose to go to a school that is like that (otherwise they would have just attended a school of their religious background), seems ludicrous and wildly uncomfortable for many. I think that is the most obviously unconstitutional one because that is a blatant, school wide violation of separation of church and state. The man is preaching something very specific to religion and that goes against the rules of a public, government funded, school. I think the "safest" scenario was the children writing "Merry Christmas" at the end of their cards out to the troops. I think that its so commonly said and sometimes many people just associate it with the holidays, not specifically the christian holiday. One connection I made was when we talked with Mr. Mueller/ Mr. Silverman about gay rights or not gay rights activists on campus or on our "rock" or anywhere visible is unconstitutional if its an infringement on peoples learning. I equate this to the rapper preacher because if it makes someone uncomfortable and allows them to not be able to learn that I think its the right of the school to take it down or away. I definitely think the school did the right thing. Its just so basic to me, there is religion and than there is public school-keep them separate. I do agree everyone has the right to free speech, but there is a time and place and a school of impressionable, young children is not the right one. I think the lady of course made a better argument. School is suppose to be a learning environment. I find it very hard to have a strong opinion one way or another on Ms. Shultz case. I guess it is her right to free speech, but I am a little confused how if it is a public school event how she can do that? If the valedictorian gave a speech including God or a prayer, I don't think it would be very appropriate. Apparently it would be legal, but still we are not all of the same religion and there are so many other ways and things to talk about that can encompass the same same idea without specifically mentioning God or praying.

  18. I agree with Kyana who agreed with Jordan about the biblical allusions. If its used for educational purposes and connecting novels that we read in class to something that we actually know, than I believe making small references to the bible, with a clear understanding that it is for educational purposes only, would have actually benefited many last year!

  19. From the New York Times article, I thought the most troubling situation was from the preacher and rapper at a middle school saying "a relationship wth Jesus is what you need more than anything else." It seemed like they were tyring to corrupt the young minds by saying that it was necessary for them to believe in what they believed in and bribing them with a celebrity and a "celebration" to get the students on their side. I'm sure many kids who might have been made fun of before for not being religious were made fun of even more after the rally from how supportive the school was of it. It was very unconstitutional to do during school hours to openly try and convince students in a public school that they need to believe a certain way. The situation in the article I found least troubling and not as big of a deal was when student's pencils that had christian messages were confiscated. I understand why the teacher felt the need to take the pencil because they were worried it would be showing the rest of the students that they all need to feel that way. However, it seems like it was just a jump from the teacher. He or she saw something religious and immediatly tried to get it away from the school. Yet, unless the student is openly making it a distraction to the class, it isn't as if the school gave them the pencil. This example made me think of the discussion we had with Mr. Mueller about students (Tinker Kids) wearing armbands in protest ofthe Vietnam war. The armbands were not provided by the school, and they weren't a distraction so what was the harm? Like that court decisision, administrators would have to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech in the classroom.
    My opinion on the Texas elementary candy cane case is that the teachers had every right to take the candy canes. It goes back to my thoughts in the previous paragraph. If the student is not just using showing their beliefs in a nondisruptive way like the armbands or the pencils, then it is their right, and young or older students, to be able to show that. However, when it becomes something that they try and share or teach other kids about, it becomes more than just what they believe and about what they think others should believe. The young students might not have had that be their intention but you never know how other students will react. I think the guest who thought it was right for the teachers to take the candy canes, Jennifer Brant, had the stronger argument because Tad Nelson kept saying that students should learn about real world and tolerance and if you don't like the candy cane you should just throw it in the trash. Students, especially that young, might not know how to just let things go and know that they can have their own beliefs and disagreemtns with others. Public schools should be about a free place for the students to find what they believe in, like what Jennifere said, without things being forced on them.
    I found myself agreeing with the Schultz family because though Ms. Hildenbrand does have her right to show her free speech, the valedictorian speech to me isn't about only what she believes. As she said herself, it is given to someone to represent their class, but by praying and having the audience join her, isn't she then representing religion as part of her class? I don't think it's fair to ask why didn't Mr. Schultz to leave the school over his argument because it is a public school, and something happened where he dind't feel comfortable and it was overlooked and pushed aside. I would have a problem if the CHS valedictorian wanted to include a prayer in his or her speech. I would feel that they should berepresenting our class, and by adding a prayer would not be representing all the students.

  20. I believe saying "a relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else" clearly states the preacher's intentions of proselytizing or emphasizing christianity to students in a public school setting which infringes upon the Establishment clause in the First Amendment which eliminates the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another. The government here is involved because a public school is a matter of state and the government is to protect the Constitution which says the church and state are to remain seperate, and moreover, enforced by the supreme court's decisions in 1962-63. The prayer rally in South Carolina was organized by the school's principle, Larry Stinson, who repeatedly is an offender of those precedents. I was outraged that such blatant proselytizing was prominent at the school, and I believe was most unconstitutional out of the mentioned cases in the article.
    I see most of these situations going on at public school as unconstitutional, I mean, if you want to put an emphasis on religion in an educational setting why not run a Catholic, or private school? Public education is funded by the state government, and taxpayer's money goes into the programs and classes that the schools sponsor...
    However, I found that the least troubling to me was district officials in Baltimore who, "under threat of a lawsuit..", stopped from holding prayer services to help students prepare for standardized tests. Although it is evident that the school officials are promoting religion, it is not as troubling to me as the case in Plano, Tex where children had "pencils ripped out of their hands" because they were writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers--that is harmless because it is privately writing a message to an individual whom they are not trying to convert forcibly through writing Merry Christmas in letters to the troops. Sounds a little overzealous to me.
    In regards to the Texas elementary school candy canes, I believe the school did the right thing in confiscating the candy canes. I do not believe they are expressing their beliefs in a way that's constitutional because they were on public school property giving out candy cane pens saying "Jesus is the reason for the season", which would offend me. Yes, I have the autonomy to throw away the candy cane but I believe it is the governments job to protect and therefore respect the religious views of those other than Christians. I found this to be an infringement on the seperation between Church and State. In the debate on Fox News, Jennifer Brandt made a solid point when she said that those first amendment rights can be restricted, and when those children try to "coerce people" to try to believe what they believe is not a question of first amendment rights but a "disruptive" offense on the constitution. "The school has a duty has a main method, and not just beliefs" Go Jennifer!

    1. "a relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else" clearly states the PREACHER'S intentions of proselytizing or emphasizing christianity... umm jen, he's a preacher in the bible belt, what did u expect. . . </3 don't be a hater.

  21. woah i exceeded the character limit, heres the second half:

    As for the valedictorian, at one point Erin Leu, her attorney said that the first amendment protects "private relgious speech". That says it all. private. Not blaring out to students and families of those students who lead different lives and may pertain to different faiths and by reading a prayer and saying "Amen" which means I believe, it is putting those students and families in an uncomfortable position to give thanks to a God to which they do not believe in. Of course, it all matters on the context of the speech, for example, if she says something inclusive such as "I invite you to praise God, Buddha, Allah, whoever your God is" then I believe it would be constitutional. Another problem I had with Angela Hildenbrand was that she said she was happy to act as an "instrument of the Lord's work", sounds like her intentions there are a bit sketchy, as in she may want to spread and enforce Christianity at a highschool. And i believe from my rather passionate argument it's a bit obvious I'd have a problem with someone saying a prayer at our school, since our school is not about faith but about faith in each other and our educators.

  22. I agree with Moriah that the first example was obviously an issue of seperatino of church and state and that it becomes an issue when a student may feel that his/her open learning environment has been taken away. School and religion are very different things and it should be obvious when things infringe on open learning. Moriah also brings up a good point about the valedictorian speech being at a public event. Though it is legal, the students should always try and not seperate peers in school, especially during a time the class is supposed to be coming together.

  23. In the New York Times article I found the school assembly the most troubling because of the way the students handled the situation. Children were reported as feeling uncomfortable about the prayer, which is unacceptable. Mr. Mueller talked about handling a situation based on the way the students react. In this case the students reacted in a way that should have caused the principal to stop the assembly. The situation I found least troubling was the Baltimore school. I don't think it is ok for a principal to hold prayer services to help students prepare for standardized tests, but out of the three situations it was the least troubling. I think this case is more acceptable than teachers citing the Bible as fact or teachers leading students in prayer and Bible study.
    I feel it would be easier to judge the candy cane situation if I knew what was written on the candy cane. I wouldn't have a problem with them if the notes just provided a little history on their beliefs, but I would have a problem if the candy canes had a message that tried to get other kids to convert. In this case it seemed like the candy cane message was harmless. I believe the principal was wrong to take away the candy canes. Jennifer Brandt had the best argument because she cited the constitution and supreme court cases that ruled in favor of the principal. Tad Nelson just said the other students should suck it up and deal with it.
    In the valedictorian case I found myself agreeing with Ms. Hildenbrand. She wasn't forcing her beliefs on the students at the graduation ceremony and the school didn't have anything to do with the speech. Not allowing her to read a prayer would be a violation of her first amendment rights. If someone wanted to do the same thing at Coronado High School, I would have no problem with it. If I objected with the prayer the student wanted to read, I would always have the option of not participating in the prayer.

  24. I agree with Meganne in respect to the school assembly in South Carolina. She said the assembly made some of the students feel isolated. I think this is the main reason why this assembly was not ok. The principal shouldn't be the one isolating his students, he should be protecting them.

  25. Hannah Stump-
    1. In my opinion, the situation that was the most obviously unconstitutional was the one that took place in South Carolina. A preacher and a rapper were telling public school students that "a relationship wth Jesus is what you need more than anything else." It is directly stated in the constitution that religion shouldnt be present in public schools, and this is a violation.
    2. The situation I found the least troubling was where young students signed letters to troops with the phrase Merry Christmas. Although that phrase is obiously associated with Christian religion, many people see it simply as a holiday greeting.
    3. This situations are a lot like the ones you and Mr. Mueller taught us because they all take place at either public schools or other public settings. I don't think that any of these things would be unconstitutional if they took place on private property.
    4.I think the school handled the situation very well. They were not trying to do anything other than follow the rules set by the constitution and to not offend anyone.
    5. I thought that the woman speaker was completly correct. Although taking away the candy canes could have been seen as an infringement of first ammendment rights, she argued that the school was just trying to make sure nobody was offended.
    6. I somewhat agree with the boy who filed the lawsuit against the valedictorian. He should have made a speech that was more open to all religions rather than just that of his own.
    7. If the valedictorian at my graduation includes a prayer in his or her speech, I will not personally be that offended, but I can see how many other students who follow other religions would certainly be.

  26. After reading the New York Times Article, “Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools, I found a few of the circumstances to be unconstitutional. First, I believe that any type of prayer rally at a public school is unconstitutional. A prayer rally clearly “advances religion” so, according to Lemon vs. Kurtzman, it should be declared unconstitutional. I also felt that the Ten Commandments poster in the hallway and the poster of Jesus in the lobby of the school were unconstitutional. Any child who does not believe in Jesus or in any of the philosophies of Christianity would automatically feel like an outcast after viewing this poster, which is a feeling that schools should not endorse. I found the situation of the teacher citing the Bible as fact in class to be the least troubling. As long as the teacher referred to other schools of thought while also citing the Bible, I believe that it is okay to refer to the Bible, since the Biblical references are very common in works of literature and in themes of history. Many of the situations paralleled discussions we have had in class. For example, the article spoke about how an ACLU lawyer is defending a seventh grader who “was subjected to unwanted proselytizing” at a prayer rally at his school. Similarly, in the Tinker vs. Des Moines case that we discussed in class, an ACLU lawyer defended two twins who were being punished for wearing black armbands in support of the Vietnam War. These two cases, however, do contrast in that Tinker is about symbolic speech and the case in this article is about religious freedom.

    I believe that the school did the right thing in confiscating the candy cane pens that had a religious message. Since the pens were handed out at a school function, on public school property, it is not right to have a souvenir that only endorses one, and not all, religions. If the pens were handed out after school hours at a club or organization, it would be fine to have those pens. Furthermore, I believe that both commentators treated the subject fairly and accurately, and I understand both of their viewpoints.

    I have a difficult time forming an opinion regarding the Schultz vs. Hildenbrand case regarding prayer at a high school graduation. First, I believe the Schultz opinion that hearing a public prayer would result in “irrevocable damage” is very extreme. I do, however, understand their discomfort in hearing a prayer at a graduation. The Schultz’s did not need to participate in the prayer though; it was not mandatory. I think that Hildenbrand had a right to say a prayer in her speech, since it was after school hours and not mandatory to participate in or attend. All in all, I find it sad that Schultz did not attend his own graduation due to this issue, and I wish it could have been solved so he could have gone to his graduation.

    I would not have a problem with the valedictorian saying a prayer in his/her speech. He/she worked very hard to become the valedictorian, and if his/her prayer seemed offensive, then I would just not participate in it.

  27. I agree with Hannah Stump's opinion regarding the Christmas cards to the soldiers. Many view Christmas as a holiday where you receive gifts, write to Santa Clause, bake cookies, and spend time with family. Christmas is no longer just the holiday where people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. As a result, children should be allowed to write "Merry Christmas" on cards to soldiers. I doubt that soldiers will be offended by that harmless greeting, especially if its accompanied with a cute picture of a reindeer drawn by a 6 year old.

  28. Of all of the situations described, I find the assembly at the school in South Carolina to be the most obviously unconstitutional. The fact that this religiously focused assembly occurred during school hours is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state and definitely disrupts a child's education because the time spent in that assembly is time out of the classroom. Although supporters of the principal's decision to hold this assembly state that students were given the option to skip the assembly, placing children in that situation and forcing them to stand out from their peers for religious reasons is unfair and should not be allowed. Even students who chose to attend the assembly still felt uncomfortable, hanging back awkwardly in their seats as their peers praised Jesus Christ. Of all the situations described, I find the situation in Baltimore where the principal held prayer services to help students prepare for a standardized test to be the least troubling. These prayer services were obviously optional and, although religiously based, could serve as a way to connect students with school administrators. The reference made to the poster of the Ten Commandments on the wall of the school in South Carolina reminded me of both Mr. Mueller's reference to the "spirit benches" in La Jolla and our rock at school. Because the posters were not a permanent fixture, just like paint on a rock or a bench, they were no different from posters advertising opinion.

    I think the administration at this school did do the right thing, mostly because the school is a public institution. Children who feel strongly about religion need to understand that while they are in a public institution with other students with diverse beliefs, they must remain neutral and be sympathetic to the beliefs of others. I think Mr. Nelson had the strongest argument because he stated that these are children and that this instance could and should be used as a learning lesson and an opportunity for them to learn the importance of appropriate behavior.

    I agree more with Ms. Hildenbrand because she argues that she has the right to say whatever she would like in her valedictory speech. Judging by what she said about her speech, she does not seem to want to impress upon others the need to follow Christianity or have any religious beliefs at all. Ms. Hildenbrand values religion enough to include it in an extremely important speech, and I think that she should be allowed to share that with others. I would not have a problem if the Class of 2012 valedictorian included a prayer in his/her speech because the speech belongs to the individual and if they feel that a prayer is important and relevant, they should have the right to express their feelings and share what they value most with the rest of the class.

  29. In my opinion the most obviously unconstitutional situation stated was the Sumner County Bible Study and give away. It is one thing to maybe quote the bible, or to say what you want, but to full out preach the bible as if you were in church at a school and then to have the audacity to give bibles away to the students is absolutely outrageous. Students can choose not to listen to a teacher or peer quoting the bible, but to be forced to not only listen, but study it is completely unconstitutional. From the Lemon test, this is obviously is attempting to advance religion in this class and has excessive entanglement with religion since it is a public school. Yet despite this severity, they were not charged at all, officials agreed they will “stop the practices,” whatever that entails.

    Of all the situations I found the ‘safest’ in terms of constitutionality to be the Pensacola, FL bullhorn-preaching teacher. This is crazy. If any teacher at our school bombarded students in the quad preaching any religion I can guarantee it would not go over well. While it’s their rights, number one who does that, like seriously, but number two citing the Bible in classes in not acceptable. Everyone has their own beliefs and grown adult teachers should be expected to adhere to those social standards just like their students do.

    Similarities include the Lemon test as mentioned in the Sumner County part and when Mr. Mueller talked to the class. Thankfully we have no had to deal with any situations quite as severe as those mentioned in the article.

    In regards to the religious candy canes, as much as I think the idea was sweet (no pun intended) I completely understand why the school confiscated them. It seems a bit much to press your religion onto friends like that. Although most kids probably would’ve torn the paper off without giving it a second thought kids are also known as sponges. If they did see that if could offend one that was not from a religious family, or change their thought simply because it was on a piece of candy. This is not an inciting message (or at least I don’t think) but I’d say overall it is not really protected in the First Amendment of free speech either. It’s gray area as majority of these cases seem to be.

    My take on the valedictorian situation is that I find myself understanding both sides but ultimately I side with Ms. Hildenbrand. I see how the Schultz family could be offended and I think it’s completely legitimate, but realistically the prayer is going to be about one minute of your life with some girl who you’ll probably never see again saying something controversial. She’s a high school valedictorian not a presidential candidate. Allowing her to say “amen” is not the end of the world. Period.

    If the 2012 valedictorian at CHS wanted to include a prayer, I’d say go for it. While I am not in the minority of religions at our school, personally I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I understand sticking up for yourself and using your rights, but fighting people on petty things like this and getting offended over something meant absolutely harmless is silly. If the valedictorian was inciting that we all become Christians and pray to God everyday, that’s a problem and hopefully she wouldn’t be valedictorian? But as for a small prayer, it’s okay with me!

  30. I agree with Hannah Stump. I did not see the students writing "Merry Christmas" to the troops to be offensive. Not all of the students were probably Christian and nor were the troops. Many people do not specifically recognize that as a Christians only club but rather a wintertime greeting such as the Yule Tide, yule meaning christmas.

  31. 1. The rapper at the assembly was the most blatantly unconstitutional. Even though the assembly was not "required" viewing, it showed the school's bias towards Christianity. It's so wrong to force that on middle schoolers who, most likely, very little religions background in any other religion besides the one they're raised with. I think that by selecting, and paying, this rapper to speak to the kids, the administration took advantage of the easily manipulated minds of children in order to promote Christianity.

    2. The bibles in the class was the least freaky for me. Although, the context that they were shared in was unconstitutional. The bible should be studied in a piece of literature, not as fact. There is huge difference between teaching religion awareness and forcing values on someone. And if schools can find that balance, it would greatly benefit the children.

    3. The candy cane case reminded me of the overreaction the principal had about the freedom for Iran benches at La Jolla High. Because it really was an overreaction. Children passing out candy canes with religious messages does not reflect the views of the school. It reflects the views of the children and their parents. The side supporting the children was right in this case.

    4. The valedictorian case is at the core, the same as the candy cane case. They both pose the question: Does what the children say or do reflect the beliefs of the school? And in both of these cases, judging front he background i have, the answer would be no. And therefore the valedictorian should be allowed to include a prayer in her speech. Now, what the agnostic kid was saying about the school using other forms of religions promotion were disgruntling. That's wrong, and maybe someone should look into the other claims made by the guy, but in regards to the valedictorian, she wins this one.

    5. I could care less if our valedictorian said a prayer or led us in a prayer. Chances are, I would ignore it. I believe that it is well within his/her rights to speak about religion. Even if it were to make me uncomfortable, they should still do it. No matter what anyone does or says, someone is going to be unhappy. And if I'm the unhappy someone, I need to suck in my gut and take it. Thats the real power of the first amendment gives us: The ability to speak freely, even if no one really wants to hear what we have to say.

    1. I agree with Caroline, with most of the points she made. I think that most of the cases shown in these articles was an overreaction to something that was not necessarily bad or illegal. Freedom of speech is for everyone at every age and I think that kids should know that and learn to respect it. That is why i especially agree with caroline on her last bullet point about prayers given in speeches. We should be taught how to be tolerant and i think the speaker has the choice to say a prayer or refer to religion and we as listeners have the choice to listen and to not listen.

  32. I agree with Hannah Stump with respect to the holiday cards to the soldiers overseas not being that controversial. I've grown up in a homogenous christian community though, so this skews my views a bit. I think that maybe they should have been little more sensitive, even though a majority of the military is Christian, and filled out some cards that represented the other religions or non-religious beliefs. Then again, in America Merry Christmas has become everyday speech, even among non-christians, in regards to the holidays. So, its not so bad.

  33. The most troubling case to me involved the “children that had pencils ripped out of their hands” because they carried a Christian message and students that were “banned from writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers.” The case sounds absurd, and I’m sure that Mr. Shackelford intentionally made it seem that way, but it shouldn’t be a case at all. I don’t think any soldier would be too upset about getting a card of well-wishes, with or without “Merry Christmas.” As for the pencils, it’s just a quiet display of faith. As long as the students with the pencils were minding their own business, they should be allowed to wear Christian T-shirts or use Christian pencils. I find it difficult to believe that even the most radical ACLU lawyer would take offense to those acts. The least troubling would be the prayer services to prepare for tests. This article doesn’t give much background on that, but I would assume that the services weren’t mandatory, and didn’t conflict with the normal school day. If students felt like the services would actually help them, that’s no problem with me. The Ten Commandments poster in the classroom hallway reminded me of that Supreme Court case we read about in The Nine and discussed in class. Based on our discussions, I would say that the poster is unconstitutional because it likely doesn’t have secular purpose.

    I don’t think the school did the right thing by banning the candy cane messages. It reminded me a lot of the Jews for Jesus case, in which their right to pass out pamphlets in LAX was supported. The children’s age wasn’t a big factor for me, because as Tad Nelson said, there isn’t anything in the Constitution about free speech age limitations. Although I agree with Mr. Nelson’s point of view, I think he is simply less intelligent than Ms. Brandt. At the root of the matter, I believe that removing the candy canes imposed on the children’s free speech.

    I side with Ms. Hildenbrand on this issue. In this case, I think it goes back to the school merely tolerating religion, not supporting it. As valedictorian, she is supposed to touch on things that are important to her, and faith is obviously one of them. It’s too bad that Mr. Schultz was so against hearing a prayer that he didn’t attend his graduation. As for a CHS prayer, I would have no problem with it. I certainly have no religious affiliation at all, but hearing a short prayer won’t hurt you. Obviously people would take offense like Mr. Schultz did, and it would never happen, but I personally wouldn’t have an issue with it.

  34. I disagree with Jordan about the Gideon's Bibles being used to help understand literature. They could definitely help understand certain allusions, but realistically, I doubt that was the intent. Considering that the high school in question also led students in prayer and Bible study, I would say that they were trying to get students to convert to Christianity by distributing bibles.

  35. After reading the article, I found the situation in South Carolina to be the most obviously unconstitutional. Students should never be told the religion of their teachers, who are role models and could potentially shift student's religious beliefs, let alone should they be encouraged to believe in that religion. What's worse, in my opinion, is that students were encouraged to "pledge themselves to Christ." This would make students who were not pledging themselves uncomfortable and threatened by others. The situation I find most constitutional would be the one in Florida where the bullhorn and the bible were used. Although this situation is the best one, in my opinion, I still don't think it should be happening in schools. Religion should not be promoted in any way, it can only be discussed in a purely academic sense. None of the examples given seem to be particularly similar to cases we've discussed, I find all of the examples to be much more obvious and disturbing to a classroom. However, having to choose one I would say that having a prayer session before a standardized test is the closest. It's somewhat controversial, but not mandatory. That reminded me of religious clubs after school.

    Without any context, I think the school did the right thing in taking the candy canes away. The children were at such a young age, and because of that are easily persuaded. The beliefs of others should not be pushed on other children. I think the line was crossed when the pencils and candy canes were passed out, and it wouldn't have been a problem if a child was just using a pencil with Jesus on it. I think Jennifer Brandt made the best case. Her opponent seemed to be repeating the same things over and over again, which is never advisable. She made a good point that talking about religion is very different than forcing your religion on others.

    I would have to say that I agree with the Schultz family most. The valedictorian gives a speech that reflects what the students have been through and how far they've come, and since not all students are given a chance to speak, this speech should represent the entire student body. Clearly, her religious reference made one student uncomfortable, which, in my opinion, makes it not okay. He is also graduating and this day means as much to him as it does to her. Because of that, I would argue that he should also be given a chance to say his religious preference if she gets to say hers. If our valedictorian wanted to include a religious reference in his/her speech, I would not have a problem with it. I understand that people practice many different religions and I wouldn't interpret it that this person is forcing their religion on me. However, if someone did oppose it, I would probably argue that one person is enough for it to be taken out.

    1. Although I wouldn't personally have a problem with a prayer, I agree with Lisa that if one student is bothered by it then it should be excluded. It seems unfair that one student out of an entire graduating class should have the right to voice her religious beliefs when it bothers another. It's isn't just her graduation, it is everyone's. And it seems unfair to place a family in an awkward position on such a family night. Even though I do know that things can't be censored just because they are scandalous, I don't see why it is necessary to make a night any less special for one family over another.

  36. Beginning with the article "Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools," I believe the situation most blatantly unconstitutional was the rally centered around the Christian speaker. The school's intentions of the rally were clear when the principal very disturbingly stated, “I want these kids to know that eternal life is real, and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re going to hear it today.” A principal administers a high school in order to enforce school policy and good behavior throughout the campus, not to incorporate his own very personal (and controversial) views into his job. I also believe the picture of Jesus hanging in the school lobby as well as the Ten Commandments poster in the hallway are equally inappropriate in a school setting, for I view that as the school sending a message to its students that they hold Christianity above all else. A public institution, specifically this school in Jefferson, South Carolina, should not be so biased in its beliefs, for it then reflects badly upon the government that is funding it. However, even in saying this, I do think it is ridiculous that elementary school students weren't permitted to write 'Merry Christmas' on holiday cards to soldiers. This case is different because there is no enforcing of religion occurring, as opposed to the former situation I mentioned.
    In regards to the first video focusing on children handing out candy canes in their public school, I found that I was more convinced by the woman, Jennifer Brandt. Regardless of age, a person shouldn't have religious views pushed upon them in a public school, which is why I also think the school district did the right thing by intervening and not allowing those students to pass out the Christian messages. The man's argument didn't seem to have much backing either, for he was saying that somehow the students learned tolerance from this practice. If anything, the students passing out the candy canes were actually being intolerant of the other students' religions, and learned tolerance from the school's course of action.
    As for the graduation ceremony, I don't think it was very appropriate of Ms. Hildebrand to include a prayer, but I don't think the boy who filed the lawsuit was acting entirely appropriately either. Personally, I would have become uncomfortable when Ms. Hildebrand led the school in prayer, however I don't think that this discomfort should prompt a lawsuit. Yes, it's true she was enforcing her Christian beliefs on her audience in a public setting, but I believe the boy made a much larger deal out of it than need be.

  37. I agree with what Nick said about the prayers before standardized tests. We seem to agree that these were probably not mandatory, so there's not problem with them. I also agreed with the fact that although he doesn't personally have an issue with a valedictorian's religious reference, he doesn't think it would be said if anyone disagreed. However, I disagreed that the candy canes should have been left with the students. I think they should not be passed out, but it's okay for someone to have one personally. When they start trying to encourage their religion is when there's a problem.

  38. I agree with Natalie's comment concerning the children being silenced for writing 'Merry Christmas' on the cards to soldiers, for they weren't silencing any other person's views in the classroom, or another's guaranteed free speech rights.

  39. I agree with Lisa's comment regarding the candy-cane involving school children. She makes a good point that there is indeed a difference between forcing/advertising your religion and simply exercising religion privately, a fine line that many often cross.

  40. I think that the most unconstitutional situation is "Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools”. This is wrong on a couple of levels first of all the whole gathering was centered on a Christian speaker. Not only did the principle mean to do this he also wanted the students to hear what he believed in and did not really care that he was pushing his belief into there lives. I feel like the least troubling would be the prayer services to prepare for tests. I don’t see a problem with this as long as no one was forced to go to them. To me it is the same thing as what professional athletes do before a big game. And I feel like if I really wanted to pray before a test no one would actually stop me. The Ten Commandments poster in the classroom is almost like the case that we went over in class. I feel like if the poster was in a history class then it would be perfectly fine but otherwise I do think it would be okay for the school to have a problem with it. I do think it was the right thing to do for the principles to take away the candy cane pens because they did say that Jesus is the reason for the season I would not see a problem with this if it were not at a public school. I think that Jennifer Brand did have some very good points and was just more convincing overall. I think that it is perfectly fine to pray before the graduation because no one is being forced to do it anyway. It is like the pledge to the flag before school you do not like to say under god if you do not wish to.

  41. I agree with caroline mack i do think that whenever someone does happen to speak there mind or say what they believe in someone is always going to disagree. There is no way to please every single person so you might as well let them speak there mind.

  42. Personally I think that the rapper at the middle school was the most horrific topic out of all of these involving church and state. It does talk about the bias towards Christianity within the school, but take note at the overall group of students who were asked weather or not they believe in Christ. Most stood up and said yes but there were few that were very uncomfortable being led into something that they disbelieve in. I am a Christian but I think it is up to individuals to promote religion, not public institutions. When it came to bibles being in school, that's okay as long as those who possess them are not promoting their religion to others. The one that I found least disturbing was the writing of Merry Christmas on the cards made by students. I don't think saying Merry Christmas means: convert to Christianity. Merry Christmas can be a non religious phrase if you only think about Santa Clause, the Christmas tree and just the spirit of giving. There is no trouble in doing that in school. The whole deal with the candy canes was not very eventful in my opinion. Having the school principle take them away was a little bit harsh and I thought that he was misguided when it came to the 1st amendment. As Ted Nelson said, there is nothing in the constitution stating age restrictions. I don't think that there should be rules against children on religious issues at schools. However, I do think that teachers should be more careful when it comes to spiritual ideologies.

    One thing I have to ask to the agnostic family who filed a lawsuit against that valedictorian is who cares? Sure she said a prayer during a public school graduation ceremony, but that is because she thanks her God for "helping her all the way". Mr. Shultz said that he was offended because he thought that the school didn't separate church and state very well. Well I don't think that's anything to get all worked up about. If he's that offended by a giving of thanks, that's too bad. Besides, it's not like she's saying you will all burn in hell if you don't pray and read the bible everyday. I think it's a good thing that she prayed. Not because she prayed but because she stood up for what she believed in. I would not be offended at all if someone at our graduation ceremony said Allahu ahkbar ( Praise be to Allah) or if someone said Mozeltov. People should be able to express their beliefs but again individuals should have these freedoms of expressions. And these expressions should be positive. I think at a school, someone should be able to say: I am a Christian and I think Christianity is awesome. People should not be able to say: I am a Christian, you should be one too if you don't want to burn in hell. I encourage someone to give thanks to their God on graduation and if people don't agree then they just don't agree.
    These articles and videos did remind me of Mr. Mueller's lecture on 1st amendment rights. From my school experience, I've got nothing to complain about when it comes to free speech. I freely express my beliefs as a Catholic and I respect the beliefs and non beliefs of others. The 1st amendment is often a misinterpreted one, but it's one of the greatest privileges we have as Americans.

  43. As a response to Nick Andrews: I would also not have a problem with a valedictorian saying a prayer at our school graduation. I also don't care what kind of prayer it is, whether it'd be a prayer to Monotheistic God, Polytheistic Gods or to the flying spaghetti monster ( pastafarian). If we as a class agree we are welcome to join, but if a lot of us do not agree then we do not have to agree. I just think it took courage from that girl to show everyone what she believed.

  44. The New York Times article "Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools" discusses the controversial middle school assembly in South Carolina that promoted "the message of God and Jesus Christ". First off, I found this to be a complete violation of the student's rights. In a pubic school, the administration is responsible for providing a comfortable, un-bias learning environment for students. It's bad enough to have someone telling you to story of Jesus Christ in a public setting, but this assembly took it a step further. I clicked on a link in the New York Times article that sent me to a Youtube video of the assembly. I found most of the presentation very inappropriate and unnecessary. At one point, the preacher says "A relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else." To me, this is not spreading the word of Jesus Christ, this is a man forcing his religious views on innocent, victimized children. This, I believe, is unconstitutional. As for the other cases, I found all of them to be unconstitutional, but if I had to choose one, I would choose the standardized test prayer, primarily because some students find reassurance in a prayer before a big, important standardized test. Like my peers have said, as long as they weren't force to go to them, I don't mind. None of these cases connected with any of the cases we went through in class.

    As for the Texas case involving the distribution of religious candy canes on school campus, I believe that the administration did the right thing by telling the kids not to hand out the candy canes. Although the message might seem playful and lighthearted, these children need to understand the importance of respecting opinions that contradict their own. After watching the video, I found the woman to be correct on the issue of first amendment rights. The first amendment applies to all U.S citizens, regardless of age.

    In the last case involving a prayer in a valedictorian's speech, I side with the agnostic family. I believe that a prayer is voicing your religious preferences to the whole school. Also, the valedictorian represents the graduating class, and if one graduate is bothered by the prayer, then I believe it should be banned. In addition, the Schulze family made a very good argument regarding the message. The mother stated that the prayer "isn't religion-neutral" and "not only promoting religion over non-religion, but also Christianity over all of the other existing religions". I found this comment to be very insightful. Regarding the last question, I wouldn't really mind the valedictorian at this school including a prayer in his/her speech. The students always have the right to not participate, but if enough people are agitated or bothered by this, I would support their cause.

    1. I agree with Nick in that the valedictory speech is supposed to represent the entire graduating class, so a prayer isn't suitable even if one student doesn't believe in prayer. I was curious, so I watched I little bit of Ms. Hildenbrand's speech. I believe she prefaced the prayer well, but it seemed out of place. I think a moment of silence was a fair compromise and would have been more appropriate.

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  46. - Of the many examples given in the New York Times article, I found the “Prayer Rally” at the Jefferson Middle School to be the most troubling. I feel that making the children step forward was probably the most ill-advised action of it all. As if wasn’t already uncomfortable enough, the preacher made the students come down from the bleachers to vow that they’d give their life to God, leaving a few brave children in the audience alone and embarrassed. This was the part that bothered me the most. The fact that the school would even allow the pair to come is one thing, but how they delivered their speech and handled themselves was disrespectful to say the least. I thought the least troubling case was the one involving the prayer services before the tests. I feel like something that’s obviously not a mandatory event really shouldn’t be a big deal. I mean it’s the student’s decision if he or she wishes to attend so I don’t see the harm in having an optional prayer service. The school certainly isn’t forcing a certain religious belief on its students so I don’t believe there is any harm in the meeting. I see how all of these cases are kind of up to the interpretation of the school/community heads and how that can often be difficult. Just like Mr. Mueller discussed in class, he has to make uncomfortable decisions sometimes just based off what he believes because he is the principal and it falls under his responsibilities.
    In the “Candy Cane Case”, the school administration acted wisely and with good intentions I believe. They obviously acted fast in order to prevent any problems before they arose–which they were unsuccessful in doing. I feel that the gentlemen had a reserved smartness about him, which was appealing. Whereas, the woman kept interrupting and throwing out the same claims without pausing to let the other guy rebut. However, the woman seemed more educated than the man.
    I agree with Ms. Hildenbrand, overall. She had a right to say a prayer as long as she didn’t force her beliefs on anyone nor protested any other religion. Although the other family’s argument was convincing, I ultimately side with Ms. Hildenbrand. If the valedictorian of Coronado High was to say a prayer, I would have no objection. It is their speech to make, they have deserved it, and they have the right to tell others of how they believe they reached that point.

  47. I agree with Hannah Stumps opinion on the Christmas cards sent to the soldiers. I'm pretty sure soldiers would be stoked to get anything from a child regardless of what religious belief they may be supporting. I don't think that the soldiers would be offended in any way and, on the contrary, they would be enthused to get something from back home–the country which they're representing.

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  49. After reading the New York Times article, I feel as if the most “troubling” scenario was the school with the assembly in South Carolina in which a preacher and rapper were allowed to preach their message and influence students to be religiously influenced. First of all, this situation goes hand-in-hand with the idea that freedom of expression in a public school setting should be monitored. This is one of those situations in which the principal had obviously agreed to it, and is something that can directly influence other students and disrupt their education experience. Forcing students to accept a certain type of religious faith and basically saying that accepting it and believing in it is the only priority isn’t okay. No person should be forced to adopt a religious faith, as expressed in the Constitution, and the principal’s ability to arrange an assembly in which students are being encouraged to accept Jesus Christ as their religious savior violates the idea that public schools must limit freedom of speech if it is becoming a distraction, as it infringes on a student’s right to an education.
    The situation that I found the least troubling was the case in which a teacher was prohibited for citing the Bible as a source in the classroom. I don’t believe this is in violation of the constitution, because the Bible can be used as a piece of literature and referring to it isn’t bad. Many people can refer to the Bible, and if a teacher is just citing it, they’re not making anybody adopt a certain type of religion (unless, they actually are through their own works or teaching methods). In so many areas of life, there are references to many works of fiction and nonfiction, and the belief that the scenarios in the Bible are real or not is completely up to any person that reads it, but making references to it as a teacher doesn’t seem to be violating anything.
    Some of the similarities that I’ve seen between the article and the class discussion we had with Mr. Mueller are that it’s important to realize what is constitutionally allowed in a public school setting and when you actually start infringing on other people’s right to a good education. That is definitely the debate that the articles embody, and there are always going to be situations that if they are carried out outside of school setting, it would be allowed, but if they are promoted by a school official/principal on school grounds, and a division in the student body begins to form, then that is something that cannot be allowed (such as the situation with the rapper and preacher at the assembly).
    Looking at the situation regarding the candy canes, I feel as if the school did the right thing in confiscating them, because schools have a duty to make sure that students don’t feel offended as a result of something that encourages the acceptance of another religion as their own personal belief. With this, Ms. Brandt made the better case, although some of what Mr. Nelson said are things I agree with also.
    I am agreeing more with Ms. Hildenbrand, the valedictorian, since it was her own valedictorian speech, and she had the right to say anything she believed as long as she wasn’t forcing anyone to follow her faith and she knows that nobody has to necessarily agree with her. She definitely has a right to give her own personal feelings and to express her own way of dealing with the impending future and the reflection of her life up until that point.
    If a student were to say a prayer in his/her valedictorian speech, I think it would be great and fantastic that a person would like to show how they truly think and feel, as long as it isn’t offensive and it isn’t forcing anyone to submit/adopt what they believe.

  50. I agree with Kyana's opinion on the administration's actions when it came to the situation in which pencils were "ripped" out of the hands of the students that were writing letters to soldiers. I see that the school was trying to prevent any discomfort that could come out of writing and promoting the phrase, but writing a letter to someone and saying "Merry Christmas" doesn't seem bad at all, considering the fact that there isn't really a disruption in the learning environment.

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  52. In response to the New York Times article, I don't think what happened was right. At a public school, it's wrong for a principal to endorse someone rapping about their religion. If that person wants to hold an event open to the public where he does that, no problem. But forcing the entire student body to sit down, take time away from school and listen to that isn't right. Sure, the student has a right to say what he wants but there's got to be something in the rules that says the principal can't endorse religion in school. And if he can, don't make it mandatory. The least troubling event to me was the prayer service before tests. This being optional, it doesn't force anyone to come or step on anybody's toes. If the whole class was forced to sit down and pray at a public school there would obviously be something wrong with that because religion can't be endorsed at school. But holding it before class, so it wouldn't take up class time and making it optional is fine in my eyes. They are doing no harm in any way to the classroom by praying in it, and safety is not a variable in this situation. I do find many similarities to the lecture with Mr. Mueller, because one of the things he talked about was discretion. In the second case, the school didn't make it a big deal people were praying in their classrooms before a big test, so it didn't get out to many people. Nobody was put in any danger, and nothing was wrong with it. It's the same as athletes praying before big games. In regards to the candy canes at school, I don't think it's right for them to be handing them out, just because of what they say on them. Religion can't be forced on anyone at a public school.

  53. I agree with Van when he talks about the prayer service before the big test being alright. It is completely optional, so know one is forced to pray or even attend. We also agreed how it was like praying before sporting events. Everyone has their own thing that gets them ready, and if praying is it and it's not bothering anyone it is perfectly fine.

  54. Out of all of the situations in the New York Times article, the one I found most obviously unconstitutional was when I read about the proclaimed atheist child being harassed. Normally, it would be the other way around, wouldn’t it? A child would be teased for being Jewish or wearing a Hijab. In this situation, the atheist is the one being bothered, and I find that crude and unfair to the 1st Amendment—he has the right to express his beliefs, too.
    The one that was least troubling to me was the issue about praying in school and Bible Study. In all honesty, I thought that it was constitutionally sound. It wasn’t as if the principal or teacher was forcing a child to participate in something that they didn’t want to do or experience. It was an option that could or could not be taken.
    Connection-wise, I found a few crossovers between what we’ve discussed in class and what I read about in the article. It was mostly just the way that schools have to be especially careful about the separation of church and state and the 1st Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech. I find the entire situation rather complicated, and I honestly think that there is a more simple way of absolving it.

    Concerning the Texas video, I find the whole thing silly. It’s absolutely ridiculous, honestly. I think that the school had no right to take away the themed pencils. Honestly, what harm were they doing? Absolutely none. It was just a few little kids passing out some religious themed pencils and candy. Those kids don’t care about the message on them, they’re just happy to receive a present.
    I thought that Tad Nelson had the better argument. Not only was he more articulate, but also he stuck with the facts instead of exaggerating them into almost hypotheticals as Jennifer Bradnt did.

    Once again, even though I am not a very religious person, I found myself agreeing with the religious side of the debate. Ms. Hildenbrand was not forcing her opinions or religious beliefs on anyone. She was simply expressing herself in front of her peers, which is protected under the 1st Amendment. At our graduation, if our valedictorian wants to include a prayer, I’m all for it. I’m not saying that I’ll participate fully or with all seriousness, but I wouldn’t have a problem with it. They are not forcing me to do anything that I don’t want to do. They are simply expressing their views, and I’d be a hypocrite to say that I would mind.

  55. (hannah stump)
    In response to Lauren Fish- I agree that although the reading of the prayer may have made some people slightly unconfortable, but I dont think a lawsuit was completly necessary

  56. I disagree with Chads point of view on the candycane pencil incident. Though, he makes a perfectly acceptable point about wanting to protect the views of the students, I still find myself thinking that the students can do whatever they want to express themselves. I agree with him on the valedictorian stand-point, though. She was not forcing her opinion on anyone, and was simply expressing herself in the best way she knew how-- through her beliefs.

  57. The situation that troubled me the most in this article was the first one about the Christian rapper that wanted the students to step forward. In doing this he basically singled all the non-Christian kids out. By doing this he brought the church into a public school and shoved it in everyone’s face. Children who want to learn about the word of God have plenty of opportunities to do so, but I don’t think that a public school assembly was the place to do that. The situation that least bothered me was when the Bible was used as a citation. This is because the teachers were probably just using it as a reference and not as a “this is the only thing that is right” type of thing. However I do not think that it was okay for a teacher to “preach to students with a bullhorn as they arrived at school”. Some similarities to me was the issue of weather the children can hand out written prayers at a Christmas party or not because this is something that not really a serious offence to most people. People still have the right to refuse the prayers and not be affected by them, so therefore their rights are not really infringed upon.
    I think that the children should not be able to pass out their candy canes and pencils because forcing their religion on other kids is not fair. Even though most kids probably don’t care, there still might be a few that feel uncomfortable with everyone walking around with their fancy candy canes with another religion on them. I think that the school did the right thing in taking them away in that learning environment. I think that Jennifer Brant made a stronger argument because she said that children can do what they want, but when they force what they believe on others it shouldn’t be allowed.
    I think that Ms. Hildenbrand should be allowed to say amen and a prayer in her speech because she wasn’t forcing anyone to agree with her, just to listen to her words that she went by as she went through high school. She was talking about her experiences and her journey through it and wanted to wish her fellow students good luck with the rest of their lives. If someone wanted to say a prayer at graduation I really wouldn’t mind because I know what I believe in already and if what they believe in is totally opposite then good for them. Listening to others share their experiences isn’t a bad thing to me and I'm confident that I could sit through 5 minutes of it.

  58. The prayer rally at the middle school in South Carolina stood out to me as the most unconstitutional. They may say that it is "optional," but students of that age would feel obligated to attend. A public school should never support an event like this during school hours. The actions of Jefferson Middle School are combining church and state instead of separating them. The school made assumptions that they could do this because most of the community had the same religious beliefs. Many schools have been getting away with this and the government does not feel that the first amendment rights of the students are being protected. I find all of the situations mentioned in the article to be quite unconstitutional. However, I would say that they prayer before a standardized test would be the most “safe” constitutionally. I do not know much of the background of the case, but it seems like it may have been a principle leading a prayer for the students before the exam. I think this would be the most constitutionally allowed because the principle is not forcing the students to follow his religion, he is just inviting them to join him in prayer. None of these situations reminded me of the discussions with Mr. Mueller because we have not had any issues at our school with the administration enacting their beliefs on the students.
    In the situation with the candy canes, I think what the school did was wrong. Elementary school students did not go around with the intention of forcing their religion on other students. They simply handed them a candy cane with a message that they did not have to support. It is not against anyones first amendment rights to express their beliefs in such a way. These kids did not cause any disruption in the classroom and I highly doubt any students were offended by this. On the news clip, I believe Tad Nelson had a stronger argument. He says that the constitution applies to everybody and these students had no reason to have these candy canes taken away. I feel that his argument refers to the constitution than Jennifer Brandt's.
    When the Schultz family filed a law suit, I see their reasons. I agreed with them mostly because Ms. Hildenbrand did not give much of an argument. She mostly spoke about winning the case. The Schultz family did not feel comfortable being in an environment where they were asked to pray. They felt their rights were being violated and the valedictorian would be preaching her beliefs to the student body. I feel that this case proves that our valedictorian has the right to say a prayer at graduation, and I would have no personal problem with that. I would feel as if that was their religious beliefs and they were touching on what motivated them though high school. There would be nothing legally wrong with a prayer at graduation, and as a Christian, I would not be offended.

  59. In response to Meganne- I definitely agree with you that the school should take the candy canes away and more problems would have been caused if they did not. Also I agree that because the children were at a Christmas party, handing out prayer messages was okay, however at a holiday party it wouldn’t be okay.

  60. I agree with Lisa that the worst part of the rally with the Christian speaker was that students were asked to "pledge themselves to Christ." When they asked the students this type of thing, they will feel uncomfortable saying no and maybe even embarrassed or threatened. I think it is awful for a school to put their students in an uncomfortable situation based on their religious beliefs.

  61. Personally, I thought the whole entire issue with religion school should really be dealt with by the district and the school. It is unnecessary for these cases to be taken all the way to the supreme court, just because a child in the 7th or 8th grade said they were uncomfortable during a rally. What middle schooler isn't uncomfortable. Despite the fact that it was a wrong for the principal to endorse religion i felt like the entire situation was blow out of proportion by the media and the parents. So there was no case that I thought deserved the attention of the supreme court. nothing was truly a display or a force of religion, it was all just bad judgement by a school principal or teacher. That is all, nothing more and nothing less.
    As for the fox news clip, I thought the fact that a news station would take time to cover a story about elementary kids giving pencils to their friends at a christmas that happened to say some religious was just ridiculous. There is no other way to explain it.
    Overall, religion might be a problem in public schools but it should be the problem of the district and the city to take care of them not the problems of the country. I thought all the cases presented were petty and were just errors and bad judgements on the school administrations side. I hope that the supreme court does not waste there time and effort over pencils or a simply rally.

  62. I believe that the situation that was the most blatantly unconstitutional was the Christian assembly in South Carolina. These kids were put into a situation where they would be exposed to ideas that they perhaps would not want to be or there parents would not want them to be. The school is public and therefore should not be affiliated with any one religion. I'm sure that it would have been much more controversial in the are if a speaker had come into the school and attempted to preach Islamic beliefs. This is the foundational reason why the separation of Church and State was established to begin with. We all have the right to an education that is free from religious influences because this way all religious affiliations would be feeling tolerated. There is a time and a place to preach your religious beliefs and school is not one of them. The situation that I believe was that should not have occurred was the fact that children were unable to write "Merry Christmas" on their cards to troops. This was not really pushing our religion on to anyone, but rather was intended as more of a way to express well wishes. This was similar to what Mr. Mueller said about the school having to walk a balanced line when it came to religion. It was obvious from all of these situations that they all had to be reviewed individually to make an appropriate decision.

    I believe that the school was not within their right to take away the candy canes. As I stated above, I'm pretty sure that if a student came to class and handed out some sort of candy with an Islamic prayer, there would be parents who threw a fit. Although it has the potential to cause a disturbance among the students, it was a student expressing their religion, not the school. However, somehow I feel like something wasn't right in this situation. I feel that it wasn't really an issue of whether elementary school kids have the right to free speech (because they obviously do) but rather the parents pulling the strings. No kid is going to come up with that idea of attaching a prayer. I believe that the woman arguing for the continued separation of church and state made the stronger argument because of her references to different situations and her logic.

    In reference to the Valedictorian, I believe that she should be able to say the prayer in her speech. Once again this is a student expressing her beliefs not the school pushing them on their students. She is perfectly within her right to say a prayer if she sees fit. It is a matter of free speech and it's not hurting anyone. There are very few view points that won't offend at least ONE person. If someone decided that they wanted to talk about their religion in their speech, I would say go for it. I personally wouldn't include it because it seems like an inappropriate time to bring up religion, but you are perfectly within your rights to do so.

  63. When reading the first article in the New York Times, I felt that the assembly that had the rapper preaching about God was the most unconstitutional. That is a First Amendment violation where separation of Church and State. By having this assembly it was pushing views on other students who may have not have the similar views, even though it was optional. Especially because Jefferson is a public school, they shouldn't be having these kind of assemblies, but if ti was a private school, there would be know problems with it. Also just because the teachers feel each student should learn from Jesus doesn't make it acceptable. What I found the least controversial was student's pens that had bible verses on them and were taken by teachers. Although this wasn't as big of a problem and didn't necessarily effect a large number of students like the assembly, it was still a good idea for the teachers to take the pens because its may make other students uncomfortable and make them feel like the others views are being opposed upon them. These both go really well with what we talked about with Mr. Muller and how there are cases that are in the gray area and its sometimes hard to make the right decision with out violating anyones rights.
    With the candy cane issue and other school in Texas, I believe the administrators made the right decision to take the candy cane pens away because they had messages that may not have agreed with other students views and could disrupt their learning. If the administrators did nothing about it then they would have been supporting the messages on the candy cane. I believe the female reporter made a much better agruement by stating facts and not being so vague like the man.
    Lastly the two videos involving the prayer in the Valedictorian's speech, I agree with the Shultz family. The girl needs to be more aware with what she is saying as to not start any problems or conflicts with the other girl over beliefs or anyone else.
    If a valedictorian wanted to put a prayer in their speech it wouldn't offend me in any way because I'm not bothered by other people's beliefs and it would be okay to me for the person to do something that they believed in.

  64. I agree with Chad that in the case of the South Carolina assembly the administration had obviously agreed to have this speaker. This is blatant support for a certain religion to the point where it isn't really even worth denying it. If this was a private religious school that would be fine, however, this is a public school that is run with government money. It should be held to the standard of church and state in order to protect the rights of those who may not believe the same way as the administration.

  65. I agree with Nick Robles, a lot of these cases were pretty strong in the favor that certain things shouldn't be going on in the school grounds because they were a violation of the First Amendment in separation of church and state. Also the teachers and administrators made the right choice in most cases by stopping the pushing of other beliefs on students and others.

    1. I disagree with Nick Robles. Stating a simple prayer is not going to offend anyone. Anyways, it is just a few lines. Graduation is at the end of the year so students will not have to encounter any more problems with religion at the public school. I am personally not very religious and a simple a prayer would defiantly not offend me. I think the Schultz family is making a mountain out mohills. They need to look at the original intent; it was not intended to offend anyone.

  66. Out of all the cases presented in the New York Times article, I think that the most unconstitutional case is the one where there was a prayer rally during the school day. It seems quite obvious why this is unconstitutional. I was a little shocked when I read that onto of there being a prayer rally there was also a Christian rapper talking about “committing their lives to Jesus Christ.” That seems a little extreme for a school setting, especially at an elementary school. I also think that the fact that the children involved in this situation were all at an extremely impressionable age made it even more controversial. These children were placed between a rock and a hard place. No young child is going to choose an option that they see as punishment over the one that everyone else is making. The case that I believe is the least controversial is the optional prayer before a standardized test. I do not see a problem with a group of students willing coming together and practicing their religion. It isn’t like in the other case where the children really didn’t have another option or choice in the matter. I didn’t really see many similarities between the cases discussed and the scenarios we talked about with Mr. Mueller. Most of the cases presented were clearing violating the separation of school and religion where as the cases Mr. Mueller presented were in the gray area. It seems that our school is fortunate enough to have an open-minded student body and faculty.

    In the case of the candy canes, I think that what the administration did was a reaction to the displeasure of a parent rather than a student. Children in elementary school haven’t had the chance to form their own opinions and so they go with the beliefs of their parents. Most likely it wasn’t the child that was like “Let’s put quotes about Jesus on these candy canes!” And it probably wasn’t a child that complained about the religious message on the candy either. In this case it seems to be more about what bothered the parents than what bothered the children. And it isn’t like the children handing out the candy canes were forcing the others to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ in order to enjoy a candy cane. I agree more with Tad Nelson because his argument related more to the constitution and the rights that these children have, no matter their age.

    Finally with the situation at the graduation, I see both sides of the argument. I do believe that the valedictorian should have the right to express what they believe however I do not believe that a graduation ceremony is the right place to do it. The valedictorian is meant to represent the graduating class as a whole and everyone has different beliefs. I think that by asking everyone to pray, the student was placing those who practice a different religion in an awkward position. However, if our valedictorian decided to say a prayer a graduation I wouldn’t be offended, even though I am not very religious.

  67. Out of all of the scenarios presented in the article from the New York Times, the most troubling to me was the one that involved the rapper and the preacher encouraging students at a pep rally in South Carolina to “step forward and pledge themselves to Christ.” South Carolina, like the majority of its southern brethren, is a very evangelical state, so I can’t say this scenario didn’t surprise me. However, the fact that this assembly was sponsored by the principal of the school, which is a public institution, makes it clear that it was unconstitutional. I’m sure that the students who didn’t elect to stand were incredibly uncomfortable, for it’s likely that the majority of the students at that school are Christian.
    The least troubling scenario was the one that involved the children writing “Merry Christmas” on the cards to the troops. Christmas, while clearly a Christian holiday, has become so synonymous with the holiday season that this really shouldn’t be an issue at all. Furthermore, these are children we’re talking about, who are clearly trying to cheer up the troops, not force Christianity upon them.
    The situation that I thought was most similar to something that I can relate to was the one that involved Bibles being passed out on school grounds during school hours. It reminded me of when Christian literature was being passed out outside of our school one morning last Fall. However, the two are different. While there is nothing unconstitutional about handing out religious leaflets, Bibles, etc. (as long as you aren’t forcing it upon someone), it’s clearly unconstitutional to do so on the campus of a public school.
    I think the school did the right thing in preventing the candy canes from being passed out, simply because it was done on school grounds. While I personally wouldn’t be offended if someone attempted to offer me a candy cane with religious doctrine attached to it that was contrary to my own beliefs, I can see how that act is more trouble than it’s worth in a legal sense, and it’s best just to prevent them from being passed out. That being said, I think Prosecutor Nelson was more convincing, even though his opinion is different from my own. He presented his argument in a more convincing way than his female counterpart, who seemed to be talking in circles and uncertain about her argument.
    I agree with the Schultz family. The valedictorian’s lawyer kept talking about how the first amendment protected her client’s “private practice” of religion, but including a prayer in your speech is anything but private. The agnostic student had every right to be opposed to that idea, although I feel that his family should be worrying more about the overt support of Christianity by the administration and the threatening townspeople than the valedictorian’s speech. I personally wouldn’t be offended if our valedictorian decided to include a prayer in their speech. I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If I wasn’t religious I could distract myself pretty easily for the forty-five seconds that the prayer was being said.
    I agree with Jordan that the Schultz family should have been more concerned with the administration supporting Christianity than with the valedictorian’s speech. Also, I think it’s important to point out that the teacher citing the Bible as fact is different from the teacher using it as a literary source. Citing that the Bible is fact would be saying something along the lines of “evolution isn’t real, God created everything”, and forcing your class to accept that as fact. Appreciating the Bible for its literary value is another thing entirely.

  68. School assemblies consist of instruction time expressly put aside for another purpose, so I believe a school would be illegally endorsing religion if an assembly featured a preacher who actively sought converts. The line about a seventh grader being "harassed for his avowals of atheism" made me immediately think about Mr. Mueller's words regarding everyone's right to a undisturbed education.

    For me, the safest situation was the school principle holding prayer services. While a principle does represent a public institution, it seems like the prayer services were on a voluntary basis unlike the school assembly in South Carolina. Students can choose to go or not, so their right to an undisturbed education is secure.

    I think Mr. Nelson made a stronger argument in that the restriction of first amendment rights should be infrequent and limited to more serious disruptions to education. Like he said, candy canes with religious messages can easily be discarded or ignored.

    While I admire both the Schultz Family and Ms. Hildenbrand for standing by their principles, the school and the government do not have the authority to forbid Ms. Hildenbrand from saying a prayer in her speech. First of all, the school is not endorsing but merely allowing Ms. Hildenbrand to speak freely, thereby staying within bound of its constitutional limits. Secondly, what Mr. Mueller described as the "culture of the school" is also a factor and should be weighed with the Tinker Test, which evaluates whether or not an action involves "substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others." It sounds like the community rallied around Ms. Hildenbrand, which is unfortunate for the Schultz family, but ultimately, the courts decided correctly that the prayer was a valid expression of free speech even though it simply made one student uncomfortable. Also, Mr. Schultz has a firm grasp of his principles, so there was really no danger of another student's beliefs unfairly influencing his own. I wouldn't mind a prayer in a valedictorian speech at CHS because it's not a substantial violation of my rights or that of others.

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  70. 1. Of all the cases in the New York Times articles, the one I think the most controversial would definitely be the first one about the school assembly in South Carolina featuring a preacher and a rapper praising the Lord. While all the cases were fairly controversial, this one stood out because it was a school mandated activity in which many students were left feeling uncomfortable and possibly offended. The school directly hired the preacher and the rapper to come speak about Christ in a religious way, which comes off as the school adopting these ideas as their own. The case about students getting pencils with Christian messages written on them ripped from their hands seems the least controversial – or it should have been. I don’t think it is a big deal that students have religious messages on their personal belongings. The fact that the administration took them away from the students made it a bigger issue than it needed to be. A lot of these cases resembled the cases we discussed with Mr. Mueller in that they involved the question of whether the school itself was sending out a religious message, like the South Carolina assembly, or if individual students were simply voicing their opinion, like the religious pencils and the “Freedom for Iran” benches.
    2. I think, because the candy canes were passed out by students and not a faculty member or someone else representing the school, that the administration took it too far by prohibiting the children from passing them out. As long as it didn’t disrupt the classroom, I think that it shouldn’t have been an issue. As Mr. Mueller suggested, these kinds of situations are perfect for starting healthy discussions about these issues in the classroom, and furthermore, as Mr. Nelson suggested, it would have been a great opportunity to teach a lesson about tolerance. I think both Mr. Nelson and Ms. Brandt had valid arguments; in fact I had a hard time disagreeing with some of Ms. Brandt’s arguments, especially that “a school has a duty to make sure that education is the main message”. However, I think that blowing up little events like this into national debates not only wastes money that should be going to education (over one million, as the pop-up on the side of the screen said), it just distracts students from learning. If they just ignored it, unless someone directly complained, it wouldn’t be a big deal and everyone would move on. I think the adults that make these law suits assume that we, as students, are easily offended by these things when in reality, we really aren’t.
    3. Like the candy cane situation, this is also a case in which an individual student is simply voicing her opinion, so I have no problem with it. The Schultz family, however, brought up that school officials often preach through the intercom or at games. I don’t think that’s okay because it shows that those ideas represent the entire school, which obviously isn’t the case. Nevertheless, I think it was the right choice that Ms. Hildenbrand could reference God in her speech. If someone at CHS wanted to pray in their speech at graduation, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Personally, I'm not particularly religious, but I am, as I'm sure a lot of people are, mature enough to just let him or her voice their opinion and respect it.

  71. I agree with what Chad said about the Bible being referenced in schools. As long as the teachers weren't implementing their beliefs on the students, I think it's fine that they talk about it. Many of the readings we do in class allude to Bible stories anyway, and if you are completely unaware, you may not understand the meaning the author is trying to convey. That doesn't mean you have to agree with that author, or take the Bible for non-fiction, but simply referencing it in discussions shouldn't be an issue.

  72. I somewhat disagree with Chris on the candy cane issue. Personally, I would disregard this biblical message, but the people receiving those messages were elementary students. Yes, to the more mature, open minded person, these notes can be ignored, but elementary school students aren't prepared to handle situations like this. To some students, these messages could impact their learning environment. It's hard to speak for such young students though because we can never really understand how the students feel about the situation.

  73. The case that struck me as the most troublesome was the prayer rally at New Heights Middle School. You can't really get away saying that you're not supporting a religion by setting aside school time allotted for education and using it to spread said religion. Some students might find the rally offensive to their beliefs, and others might find that it interferes with their education. Albeit, the school did provide an alternative to going to the rally, but I don't think sending a student to the suspension room is the best place for people opting out of a religious rally.

    The case that appeared the least threatening to anyone's moral welfare was where the teacher's were leading students in prayer and Bible study, along with allowing church members to distribute Bibles during school hours. I feel that the teachers can lead students in Bible study and prayer after school, and since they are leading students, it seems that students aren't being forced into the sessions, but are going at their own free will. Allowing people to hand out Bibles in school isn't that bad, and if students does not want a Bible, they can simply refuse (preferably politely).

    Regarding the lawsuit in Texas, I believe that Mr. Nelson had the stronger argument: first amendment restriction should only apply when they are hampering education. Otherwise, it is best to let the whole situation fly by in order to not spark any major controversy over it. The candy canes could have simply been tossed by the students or they could have ignored them entirely, there was no reason to go out and punish the student for handing them out.

    The whole little fiasco involving Angela Hildenbrand's use of a prayer in her valedictorian speech seemed to have reasonable arguments on both ends. Personally, I don't see a point in bringing up a lawsuit against someone for praying in school. Sure, it might have been in public, and (my gosh) you had to endure those 45 seconds of religious texture, but what harm could it possibly cause to an individual? There is no evidence that the Schultz family was drastically harmed by the prayer, it seemed more as an excuse to bring up a lawsuit rather than a freedom of speech violation. Prayers are not that hard to ignore, and if you are secure enough in your faith, are not proactive or meaningful. Personally, this was more of a minor issue, something that did not deserve so much controversy and publicity as it received.

    oh, and stop SOPA:

    1. I definitely agree with you that the case with Hildenbrand was a minor issue and that there was no point in putting a lawsuit on someone praying during their valedictorian speech. Although it is a public show of religion, Hildenbrand isn't forcing anyone to pray with her and didn't force her beliefs on anyone and that it is her right to say what she wants in for her speech.

  74. Out of all the examples given in the article, I felt that the pep rally at the South Carolina was the most obviously unconstitutional. The quotes that came out of that pep rally, such as the one that said “a relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else,” or when Mr. Chapman said “Jesus represents everything we want our students to live by,” both were opinions that made me feel like I was sitting in church. The second quote also made me want to ask “what if your students don’t want to live that way and choose to live another? Does that mean that their choice of how to live isn’t sufficient or “right”?” Religion should not be forced. I believe it should be something that if you want it to be present in your life, you seek out a way to practice it, a public school should not host professional speakers that are solely there to promote and preach one religion.
    The situation I found the least unconstitutional was the one that took place in Baltimore where the principal was holding prayer services for students before a standardized test. Although the principal is a representation of the school, at least the students had the option of whether or not they wanted to attend. Although I can see how they were all controversial situations, I do feel like this one was the least of the four in the article. Both of these situations are similar to what we discussed in class in that it is sometimes very hard to draw the line one what is okay and what is not. Also this reminded me about when we discussed the Ten Commandments being posted in a court and how that would make some groups feel uncomfortable and in a situation where they would be at a disadvantage for not having those beliefs. That’s probably how some of the students at the South Carolina school felt.
    I think the school did the right thing taking away the candy canes. Although the children may not have meant to push religion on their peers, that is how it came off and that is not okay in a public school, they need to be understanding of other children’s beliefs. I think that Ms. Brandt made the more intelligent and factual based argument, but I do think some points made by Tad Nelson were reasonable.
    I found myself agreeing more with Ms. Hildenbrand. It was her speech and she should get to choose the content. A prayer would probably take less than 30 seconds out of the entire evening and although it may be an uncomfortable 30 seconds for some, it was clearly a very meaningful part of Ms. Hildenbrand’s speech in her opinion and in a valedictorian speech you’re supposed to reflect on the things that having made your experiences so far meaningful and this is obviously one of them. If the valedictorian at our school wanted to say a prayer during our speech, I wouldn’t be opposed to it, I don’t think it’s completely necessary, but it is the valedictorian’s choice.

  75. Although I disagree with Lauren about whether or not it was okay for Ms. Hildenbrand to include a prayer in her speech, I do agree with Lauren that the Schultz family may have taken things a little far in filing a lawsuit and made things a bigger deal than they needed to be.

  76. Of all the controversial situations presented, I felt that the school pep rally in South Caroline definitely crossed the line. Although, I also felt that the case at Pace High School in Pensacola came in at a close second. In response to the assembly, I couldn't help but think of the kids who didn't associate with the evangelical Christian preacher. I was initially glad the kids could "skip out" on the pep rally. However, upon further reading, I was disappointed, to say the least, that passing on the assembly meant spending time in the suspension rooms. This was a sly coverup by the school and for obvious reasons I can understand why the boy would feel even more uncomfortable to go as far as to isolate himself in the suspension room because he didn't believe in what was being preached-- this seemed like an invitation for bullying and mockery on the boy and others by teachers and students alike.
    And as we all know, bullying is a distraction, unfortunately, for many students across our nation. As we were discussing in class with Mr.Mueller, when these cases put a student in an uncomfortable situation it can be inhibit a child's learning, and that's incentive enough for a student to file a case against the school.
    I felt that all these cases were very close to unconstitutional. I can't say that one case was less unconstitutional than another, I think these situations are all being brought to the light for a reason-- because they question the very essence of "what is constitutional?"
    I stand behind the school for taking away the candy cane grams. As the female guest on the clip argued, there is no exchange of ideas because the grams sent one message and were very obviously not accepting of another students. In other words, these children were pushing, almost forcing, their beliefs on their peers who may or may not be educated on any one kind of religion, including Christianity.
    In regards to the speech, I sided with the Valedictorian. I understand that the prayer and "amen" might offer more about the Valedictorian's background than wanted, but it doesn't seem to be enough for the Schulz family to file a case about. Instead, it is the school that is honoring her with recognition. She is perfectly deserving of her right to free speech, and she should not feel like she has to edit her words to appease the receiving audience and be politically correct on this one time, yet special, occasion. Plus, I don't think this speech will have a lasting, negative effect on the audience after hearing it. Preaching or praising religion doesn't have a place in a school environment, but it shouldn't be considered taboo to say "amen" in her brief speech. Therefore, I don't think I would have a problem if one of CHS's valedictorians did the same.

  77. In my opinion the worst incident was the one about how the middle schoolers had to go to an assembly involving praying and preaching. I don't think it was right that students were forced to attend despite what they may believe in. Personally, I feel like I'd be very uncomfortable in the situation because I'm not religious. Even though Christianity is widely accepted in the south, public schools shouldn't assume that every kid believes in the same thing. 
    I thought the least severe incident was the one about bibles being handed out during school hours. In this case, students could choose to not accept them. In the other two cases it seemed like religion and faith was being forced onto the students without them having a choice of any kind.
    In the first video about the pens with religious notes on them, I feel the school was right but I don't think what they did was really necessary. The students handing them out had good intentions. I feel like they weren't trying to preach or force their beliefs in any way. If a student felt uncomfortable with the pen/note, like Tad Nelson said, they could just throw it away or ignore it. I know that if I was in that situation that's what I would do. Also, the video made it seem like there weren't any serious disruptions or offenses taken with the pen/note so the whole situation could have just been left alone. So yes the school was right, but actions they took weren't exactly needed. 
    I really agreed with both of the last two videos. The agnostic family showed well how it wasn't right that public schools allowed such open religious expression. There needs to be a lone drawn somewhere even in strong religious settings like Texas. It's the same with the first article we had to read, schools can't ignore even the minority group of people that don't have similar religious beliefs. I also agreed with the valedictorians arguments. Her speech is supposed to have some personal content and I think it's okay for her to include a prayer. She's addressing the entire crowd but it's just her expressing her own beliefs. I would definitely be okay if someone included a prayer in their speech. I understand that a lot of students at CHS share similar beliefs so if they want to embrace that it's fine. It's not hurting me or offending me if they want to express themselves. 

  78. I agree with Kat! Public schools aren't the place to enforce religious beliefs (middle school rally). Schools can't associate everyone with the same religion. It doesn't matter what state you live in. I also agree with her statement about how the kids with the pen/note weren't forcing on their beliefs they were just handing them out. It would be a different story if their intentions were to manipulate the other students perspective on religion. It's a lot like what mr. Mueller talked about. If it's not causing a disruption then just leave it alone. Lastly, I agree with her statements about the valedictorians situation. It was her speech at her graduation. She shouldn't have to worry about what other people want to hear. She was allowed to make a speech and no one should interfere with that.

  79. Out of all the cases presented in the Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools article, I found the first case most troubling. This assembly is unconstitutional because it is forcing the students to hear about their religious views during school hours. Public schools are suppose to be place where it is unbiased towards religion, therefore the principal of that school shouldn’t have allowed a pastor and rapper to come to a school assembly and preach about Christ. The case that I found least troubling was about pencils being “ripped out of their hand” for having Christian messages written on them. Just because there are Christian messages on their pencils, doesn’t mean that they are forcing their ideas on others. The article definitely reminded me of our discussion with Mr. Mueller and how students have a right to an uninterrupted learning environment.

    In regards to the Texas case involving the distribution of religious candy canes, I think that it was the right decision to take those candy canes away. I think that it’s great that they are practicing their religion; however, the students should not be forcing on others their own religion. I believe that Jennifer Brandt made a stronger argument. Pushing your religious views on others in a public school is stepping over the boundary of where the first amendment protects you.

    I think that Hildenbrand did have the right to include a prayer in her valedictorian speech and she has the right to express it however she wants. Even though it will cost some discomfort towards those who don’t have the same beliefs as her, she isn't forcing anyone to join her in prayer or follow her faith. If the valedictorian of our class were to decide that he or she wanted to include a prayer in their speech I would be fine with it as long they are not forcing their beliefs on others or are offensive towards other religions.

  80. I feel that the worst scenario of those described was the school sponsoring a preacher to speak to students at an assembly. In most of the other violations, it was mainly the actions of one or a few teachers trying to bring religion into their class rooms. This is obviously unconstitutional, but not as blatantly obvious as a school administration sponsoring a preacher from one specific religion to preach to the entire school. The instance I found to least severe was the case of bibles being allowed to be handed out during school hours. Although this could make students feel uncomfortable, they can choose not to accept the bibles, they are not being forced upon them.
    After watching the video about the student not being allowed to hand out candy cane pens with religious messages written on them, I can see how there would be a valid argument for either side. On one hand students are having the messages forced upon them, while they could just dispose of the message; it is a fair bit more disruptive, than say, wearing a t-shirt with religious messages written on it. On the other hand, the student probably isn’t trying to force their beliefs on other students. I feel however that the arguments for not distributing the messages are stronger.
    In the videos I really couldn’t see a valid argument that was particularly better than the other. Yes, public schools maybe shouldn’t allow such religious messages at school sponsored activities, but I think that it was also in Ms. Hildebrand’s first amendment rights to free speech. In one video the interviewer mentioned “referencing” religion, which the prayer in the speech clearly did more than reference. I think if she had only referenced god, rather than including a prayer or such direct messages it wouldn’t have caused so much controversy. If the valedictorian for the class of 2012 wanted to include a prayer in his or her speech, I would have no problem with it. I don’t mind when people openly express their religion, up until the point it gets to in your face, and then I disagree less because of the religion than the fact it’s just annoying. I think though, that if our valedictorian did try to include a prayer, it would cause controversy in Coronado.

  81. I agree with what Miki had to say about the school banning the candy cane pencils with religious messages. The school wasn't sponsoring the messages, it was just one student expressing their personal beliefs.

  82. Of all the circumstances discussed in the article, I felt that the direct references and obvious sponsorship of Jesus in the South Carolina case made it the most blatantly unconstitutional. While it is obviously great that this particular man found solace and a solution to his problems in Jesus, preaching that God is the solution to a group of middle schoolers, described as a "rapt" audience crosses the line. It became obvious through reading this article that the man in question wasn't simply sharing from an objective point of view his own personal story, he was offering it up as a lesson, or a suggestion to students that may have been struggling with problems of their own. I think also that the fact that the school in question was a middle school also factors into the unconstitutionality of the situation. As we discussed when Mr. Meuller was here, it is the responsibility of the school administrators to determine if an action of "free speech" will be interpreted as a school sponsoring or condoning specific religion or viewpoint. It is very easy to see how impressionable pre-teens could see a school sponsored speaker as an agent of a message that the school wished to spread. The case that I thought was the reference to allowing children to hand out written prayers at Christmas parties because I believe then even children, as individuals, have the right to share with their peers what they believe in, and this action bears no suggestion of administrative approval or disproval of what is being said.

    I believe the school made a mistake in taking away the candy canes, and that they overreacted in trying to censor the children's actions. I don't believe that the candy cane pens provided a significant "distraction" to the elementary school students involved, and I think that a bigger deal was made in the aftermath of their confiscation then would have been if they were allowed to remain in the classroom. I thought Mr. Nelson had the more solid argument, referencing the 1st amendment and how it has no provisions regarding age. I found it almost humorous that Ms. Brandt suggested that these children were being "coercive" in their actions, or trying to force their religion on others. These kids quite frankly probably had little idea what they were doing, as most children's faith at this age is based entirely on what their parents tell them. And I also highly doubt any child upon getting a candy cane pen that contained a message contrary to their belief would give it even a second thought, and would simply use it as it was intended, as a pen.

    In the case of the valedictorian, I believe that free speech permits her the right to say what she wishes in her speech. Just like CHS doesn't tell their valedictorians what message should be communicated in their speeches, the government should not get involved in such manners. It is well known that while a valedictorian will often try and say something with broad appeal in their speech for entertainment value, at the end of the day, the speech that he or she writes is a reflection on his or her beliefs alone. A prayer at the end of a speech, complete with an amen is a personal sentiment, and as long as the student doesn't make any sweeping generalizations such as "we here at blankHS believe that Jesus is our lord and savior" she should be free to make this well desired speech as she sees fit. I would see this as a bit of an odd decision for a CHS valedictorian to do so, but I would not be offended in the least whether the prayer was Christian, Jewish or Hindu.

  83. I agreed with Christopher's comment regarding taking into consideration the "culture of the school" in the instance of the valedictorian's speech and the prayer contained in it. If there was a well known, and loud opposition present at the students school, it might be cause for disruption of a graduation if the prayer was said, something that would be important for all parties involved to consider. However, occurring in a largely religious area, such an act is unlikely to create the kind of extreme controversy that would incite a disruption. I believe that although it is often difficult to judge what merit's interference on the part of a school official, applying knowledge of the culture of a school is an important step to take in controversy.


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