CLOTHING & JEWELRY IN U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS:
"Referring to the Star of David as a gang symbol is either
ignorance or religious intolerance. The decision ... to suppress a heartfelt
and legitimate public expression of faith is totally inappropriate."
Pat Robertson, 1999-AUG-19
"...state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism.
School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students.
Students in school as well as out of school are 'persons' under our
Constitution." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. Des
Moines School District (1969)
"[It] can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed
their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the
school-house gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for
almost 50 years." Ibid
"Nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into
religion-free zones, or requires all religious expression to be left
behind at the school house door." President Clinton, 1995-JUL-12.1
The constitution both protects and prohibits many religious behaviors in
Students' rights of free religious expression are not not necessarily automatic
given. Some teachers, principals and school
boards are not familiar with such legal matters. Sometimes, freedoms have
to be fought for.
Many infringements on a student's religious freedom are clearly unconstitutional, and
based on ignorance of the law by the teacher, principal and/or school board. Such
disputes are usually resolved when the school is informed of student's rights. Many
Christian litigation groups are actively involved in such resolutions. The Rutherford
Institute2 is believed to be the largest such
organization. They have stated: "[M]any cases can be solved with a strong and
professional letter from an attorney, a legal memorandum from our office, or a phone call
from a staff member." Although it is a
very conservative Christian group, they
occasionally take on cases which support the rights of non-Christians. The
American Civil Liberties Union is a secular group that also fights for students'
rights. 3They have a section of their web sites specifically
directed to student concerns. 4
There are signs that the American public is becoming more tolerant of
students' religious speech as expressed in their selection of jewelry and
clothing. This may be because of:
An increase in the numbers of religiously unaffiliated adults.
An increase in the religious diversity. The U.S. is now regarded as
the most religiously diverse nation in the world.
The increased variety and membership of minority religions.
Wicca, for example, is doubling in size about
every 30 months.
Statements by political leaders, largely after 9-11, which have
promoted religious tolerance and freedom for religious minorities.
A Dallas-Ft. Worth TV station, NBC5i.com, conducted an opinion poll
over the Waxahachie, TX case in 2002-AUG. Those who voted were 77% in favor of
students being "allowed to wear a pentacle or pentagram to school."