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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, three times a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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May 20, 2019

Teachers are supposed to teach freedom of speech and religion, not censor it.  But both teachers and school officials continue to demonstrate their fear of anything resembling an endorsement of religion. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


On Ash Wednesday, it is common to see individuals bearing the mark of the cross on their foreheads, part of a religious tradition reminding the faithful of their own sinfulness and the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

Evidently not everyone understands that. William McLeod, a fourth grader at Valley View Elementary School in Utah, is Catholic. He showed up to school on Wednesday morning with the traditional mark of the cross on his forehead. 

His teacher took him aside, handed him a wet cloth, and instructed him to wash his forehead clean.  He attempted to explain the reason for the mark, but to no avail. William spent the rest of the school day embarrassed and upset.  Later, school administrators responded to complaints by his family and the teacher apologized. 

Students are free to exercise their faith—even at school—so long as doing so does not interfere with the educational mission of the school.  A harmless, silent mark of ash on one’s forehead does nothing to prevent such instruction.  Situations like this show how afraid school officials have become of any display of religion in school.

As one court wisely put it, in situations like these, “The school’s proper response is to educate the audience rather than squelch the speaker.”    

In other words, they should teach, not censor.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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