January 2017 Church & State - January 2017

NY Teacher Loses Classroom Religious Display Appeal

  AU admin

A federal appeals court has rejected a New York public school teacher’s claims that her religious freedom and free speech rights were violated after the school district asked her to take down a biblical poster and a drawing of three crosses from her classroom. 

The Buffalo News reported that a Cheektowaga High School student reported biology and anatomy teacher Joelle Silver’s displays to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization based in Wisconsin. The organization took the matter to court and won in the lower courts. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now affirmed that decision. 

At the time, attorneys defending Silver with the right-wing American Freedom Law Center said the lower court rulings were “dripping with hostility to religion.”

But FFRF alleged that the student said Silver invited a guest speaker to her anatomy class who used Bible passages in his presentation. Silver also referenced Adam and Eve during the student’s anatomy class, the student said.

The case is similar to an Ohio legal battle that took place in 2012. In that case, a public school science teacher refused to remove religious signs and a Bible from his classroom. (He also taught creationism.) The teacher, John Freshwater, was fired and challenged his dismissal in court. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld his firing in a 4-3 vote. AU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Silver’s fight may not be over yet. She can ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, although odds are long that the high court would accept it.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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