oct 16 2014
[with Dobbie's added comments]
Christian group Focus on the Family sponsored a "Bring Your Bible To School Day" encouraging students to exert their First Amendment rights.
The group planned the day in response alleged cases in which Bibles were banned from school classrooms and students ordered to stop reading their holy books.
"It's a religious freedom event for students in public schools going up all the way to the college level," Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and facilitator of the Thursday event, said. "They voluntarily bring their Bibles to school as a visual celebration of their religious freedom and start conversations with other students."
The U.S. Department of Education has explicitly stated that students are within their rights when they pray, say grace and read from religious texts during non-instructional time. But to make ensure students' rights are protected, conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom released a legal memo, stating:
The Supreme Court has stated that public schools cannot restrict religious speech simply because it may be perceived by some as ‘offensive’ or ‘controversial. The Supreme Court has squarely stated that a student’s free speech rights apply ‘when [they are] in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during the authorized hours.’
Cushman said in a promotional video about the event that students should feel empowered to speak up about their faith in the classroom.
"There are going to be thousands of students all across the nation bringing their Bible voluntarily into their schools," Cushman said. "And they're doing this not only as a visual demonstration of what their religious freedom rights are...but also just to initiate conversations with their classmates about God's love."
[Dobbie asks: So, can atheists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims speak out, too?]
Focus on the Family released a student guide for event participants to help students come up with ways to engage with their classmates during the day. Included in the activity ideas, Cushman said, were quizzes students could share, t-shirt and poster designs and a "pass the verse forward" activity with scriptural passages they could give to friends.
"All of this would be done before and after class so it doesn't interfere with classroom instruction time," Cushman added. "It's about conversation, not confrontation." [Dobbie says: No it isn't; it's about confrontation.]
Other religious groups could easily follow Focus on the Family's lead -- and they would be fully within their rights to do so, Cushman said.
"An event like this doesn't create any new right; it's already there," Cushman said. "All students have those equal rights."
National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was asked if his group would ever consider sponsoring a "Bring Your Quran To School Day."
"We would encourage Muslims to bring their Quran to school every day, but whatever would be done would have to be respecting the rights of other people."
CAIR runs an "Explore the Quran" campaign which sponsors the distribution of Muslim holy books to public libraries, school libraries and prisons. The aim is to spread awareness about Islam and combat prejudice.
"It's not a disruptive effort." [Dobbie says: Yes it is.] "So it's not so much 'bring your Quran or Bible to school,' it's what you do once you get there."