April 2012 Church & State | People & Events

A Tennessee student says her public high school promotes Christianity and has censored her school newspaper protest against the practice.

Krystal Myers said Christianity is routinely favored at Lenoir City High School. There are prayers each year at graduation ceremonies, prayers at football games and other athletic events and religious displays by teachers, she said. In addition, youth ministers are allowed to come onto the school campus and hand out candy and other food to students.

Myers, an atheist, said sources tell her that the local school board also opens its meeting with Christian prayers.

“The whole foundation of how our school is conducted is established by obvious Christians,” asserted Myers, an honors student. “Somehow, this is unsurprising. If our school board chooses to ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court, then it is no surprise that teachers choose to do the same.

Asserted Myers, “The Christian faith cannot rule the United States. It is unconstitutional. Religion and government are supposed to be separate.

“If we let this slide, what other amendments to the Constitution will be ignored?”she asked. “I leave you to decide what you will or will not do, but just remember that nonbelievers are not what you originally thought we were. We are human beings – just like you.”

Myers’ column was originally written for the Panther Press, the student newspaper where she is editor, but school officials, who review content prior to publication, refused to allow it to be published.

School Superintendent Wayne Miller told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he feared Myers’ editorial had the potential for disruption in the school.

“We do have the right to control the content of the school paper if we feel it is in the best interest of the students,” Miller said.

In response, the News Sentinel picked up Myers’ column and ran it Feb. 26. It caused no disruptions in the school.

Americans United lauded Myers for highlighting important constitutional issues.

On AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, AU Director of Communications Joe Conn wrote, “Krystal is a bright and courageous young woman. She was right to bring these issues into the light of day so the situation can be corrected. Public schools must welcome all students, regardless of their views about religion. It is a violation of the First Amendment for government to favor the majority faith over others, or to favor religion over nonreligion.”

Myers also appeared on AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn’s radio show “Culture Shocks.”