Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., have teamed up to produce a 15-page guide that seeks to alleviate the “confusion” about the religious freedom rights of students and teachers in public schools.
On Monday, the Republican politicians, both of which are lawyers, released the Louisiana Student Rights Review, a document that aims to provide guidance on prayer and religious expression in public schools.
The guidance decries the notion that public schools in the United States must be “religion-free zones.”
“To the contrary, both federal and state laws specifically protect religious freedom rights in public schools,” the document reads. “Thankfully, Congress and our state legislature still recognize the fundamental importance of religious liberty — the first freedom listed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”
The guidance states that even though the U.S. Supreme Court has held that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” there still seems to be much confusion about the First Amendment rights in public schools.
Although schools have to maintain a level of neutrality towards religion, that doesn’t mean that students must be forced to withhold from engaging in their faith while on school grounds.
Courts have ruled that student speech is not the same as government-sponsored speech, the document explains.
The document assures that students are free to pray, read their Bible, discuss their faith and invite others to religious events during non-instructional time in school because all are a forms of speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The document stresses, though, that all religious activity must be student-led and student-initiated.
SOURCE: Samuel Smith