Religion: First Amendment- Religion and Education
The legal issue in the grading of the students work in which Jesus has been mentioned and a drawing of the Last Supper was displayed is evident in the US Supreme Court examples. The First Amendment states that Congress would not make any law that would disrespect any religion and avoid their exercise, freedom of speech would be granted to all-region followers, congregations for observing religious rites would not be prohibited, and no petitions would be encouraged by the government for remedying the grievances (Wicht, 2014).
The first example of the US Supreme court case is that of Brittney Settle in 1991, a grade-9 student who appealed against her English teacher that she did not accept her work, including an essay on Jesus (Education Week, 1996). She thought she was religiously discriminated against; however, the Court ruled out the light of the 6th Circuits ruling by saying that it is upon the teacher in the classroom to draw particular lines for making distinctions.
A second case occurred in 1980 when Kentucky law was witnessed violating the First Amendment by displaying Ten Commandments in their public school as a mandatory policy (Wermiel, 2009). The reason for displaying the religious work could be to support Jews or Christians since these Commandments were deemed sacred for these two religious followers. Since the First Amendment does not prevent anyone from displaying religious works, especially displaying a special one seems to discriminate against one religion.
A third case was about the student-led prayer at football games that the school itself sponsored to be unconstitutional since it was a typical religious display (National Coalition against Censorship, no date). The Court called it discrimination against the rest of the religious followers as the official endorsement of one particular religious prayer would be unjust. The case involving Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe occurred in 2000. The promotion of a specific religious prayer is not permissible under First Amendment. In contrast, religious exercises within the school for all population segments should be equal and not dedicated to only one.
Based on these illustrations of the US Supreme Court cases regarding the First Amendment on religious display or freedom of speech, the pictorial depiction of the person who was a hero to the student was that of Jesus and a drawing of the Last Supper. The grading of a students essay would be at risk under the legal jurisdiction of the First Amendment as it presents one explicit religion. In several instances, the Court has clarified that there is a difference between freedom of speech and endorsing religion. Initiating a specific school prayer for a specific religion would be favoritism from the schools side, which is not encouraged (US Department of Education, 2020). Therefore, the establishment clause in the First Amendment prohibits the demonstration of a specific speech or religious work that depicts a particular religious hero, such as Jesus. However, free speech is still not disregarded as the Free Exercise clause stipulates the same.
Further explanation of the First Amendment includes interdiction of the schools and their staff from allowing certain religious speeches and devotional readings from the Bible, which applies to the student work of Jesus and the Last Supper. Otherwise, it would appear that the school does not take action against a teacher who tried to participate or persuade the student that certain religious promotion is fine. Again, it should be noted that freedom of permission is not negated; it is just being disallowed based on favoritism or discrimination against other religious sects or students within the class.
Education Week. (1996, February 1). Student essay on Jesus prompts legal battle. https://www.edweek.org/education/student-essay-on-jesus-prompts-legal-battle/1996/02
National Coalition against Censorship. (no date). The First Amendment in schools: Resource guide- religious expression in the public schools. https://ncac.org/resource/the-first-amendment-in-schools-resource-guide-religious-expression-in-the-public-schools#:~:text=Religious%20Messages%3A%20Schools%20may%20not,part%20of%20an%20academic%20program.
US Department of Education. (2020, January 16). Guidance on constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public elementary and secondary schools. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html
Wermiel, S. (2009). Stone v. Graham (1980)- Related cases in Ten Commandments. The First Amendment Encyclopedia. https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/696/stone-v-graham
Wicht, S. (2014, June 2). What does the First Amendment say about displaying religious symbols? Learning for Justice. https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/what-does-the-first-amendment-say-about-displaying-religious-symbols
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