Did Local School Choir Cross Church – State Line?
Another feud is brewing over religious expression in schools or during school events.
At the beginning of each Caddo School Board meeting, members get to see a variety of performances by students. About a month ago, the Board heard from 4 members of the Byrd High School Choir. They sang the song "Who Will Be a Witness for My Lord". It was a beautiful rendition.
But I got a complaint from someone who says they may take this issue to an attorney to find out if this is permissible.
Here's part of the performance:
People who have filed complaints about this kind of issue say no public equipment can be used to promote religion in any way. And the religious expression must be student led only.
In this instance, you can obviously see the Choir Director working with the teenagers and the school board's microphone is used during the performance. If it's a violation of the law, what happens? Can the school board say "oops, we're sorry, we won't do it again." Or could there be legal sanctions? Lots of questions are still unanswered.
Here is the link to the Student Rights Review workbook.
Here are some of the rights outlined in this document:
Can school employees actively lead and participate in a meeting of a recognized student religious club? The law requires school officials and employees to attend religious meetings only in a non-participatory capacity.33 However, if a club is organized as an after-school community group not affiliated with the school, then adults may be members
Do students have a right to engage in religious expression during a class talent show or other school organized event? Yes. When the choice of what to say or perform is voluntary and up to the student alone, the student’s expression is personal and thus protected by the First Amendment.
Can a public school still recognize Christmas and Easter? Yes. A public school can refer to “Christmas” and “Easter,” have a Christmas/Easter party, and include Christmas/Easter music, art, or drama in a school play or performance, if the intent is to recognize a legal public holiday and teach history or cultural heritage. The purpose may not be to advance a particular religion.
Can religious clubs access and use school equipment? Yes. Religious clubs must be allowed the same access to school equipment and facilities as all other student clubs.