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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, once 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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Jun 18, 2018

Despite the numerous assertions that students may not talk about their faith in public schools, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled differently. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Michael Chandler, a vice-principal in the DeKalb County school system, did not like the law passed by the Alabama legislature that would permit religious speech to occur on public school property.   

Before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, he argued that any religious speech—even student-initiated religious speech—that occurs in the public schools isstate speech and, therefore, a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  The circuit court disagreed, holding that for the state to be anything but neutral toward student religious speech it would be hostile to the free exercise of religion.

At about the same time, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a separate case involving students praying over the PA system before a public school football game.  So, the Eleventh Circuit reviewed Mr. Chandler’s case a second time.

But, nothing changed.  The Eleventh Circuit said that, when the state is neutral toward religion, the Establishment Clause is satisfied and private, religious speech does not need to be censored by the state. But, there’s also another clause in the First Amendment.  As the court concluded, “The Free Exercise Clause does not permit the state to confine religious speech to whispers or banish it to broom closets. If it did, the exercise of one’s religion would not be free at all.”

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

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