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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Parents Take On BOE Over Religious Posters

NASHVILLE (CN) - The Wilson County Board of Education violated the Constitution by allowing school principals to ban posters with religious references in school hallways, a group of parents claim in Federal Court. They say school officials have too much latitude over what they deem "inappropriate," and there's no legitimate state interest to justify the ban.

The board's policy allows the principal of Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Joliet, Tenn., to screen materials he deems inappropriate.

In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board and Lakeview on behalf of a student who was allegedly offended by posters for "National Day of Prayer" and "See You at the Pole," an event where students gather around the flagpole to pray.

The ACLU sought to ban the events, but the district court refused to go that far. It ruled that some Lakeview administrators and teachers had improperly endorsed religion, but declined to ban the events from taking place. Posters were allowed, so long as they included a disclaimer stating that the school did not endorse the event.

The plaintiffs say they played by the rules when hanging posters, but school officials went around and covered up all references to religion. Apparently, the principal had deemed them "inappropriate."

"Defendants' policy and practices of isolating and banning student and parent religious references on posters are not neutral toward religion," the lawsuit claims, "but are invidious and hostile toward religion, specifically demonstrating hostility toward Plaintiffs' faith and belief in God."

The plaintiffs ask the court to find the policy unconstitutional. They are represented by David Maddox, with counsel from Benjamin Bull with Alliance Defense Fund.

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