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Students and teachers in Hardin County, Kentucky are fighting back against the local school district’s draconian rules governing the expression of religion, claiming that the policies in place violate the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act.
Under the current rules, no religiously affiliated club may meet during school hours even though the district sets aside “club time” for clubs to meet during school hours on a monthly basis.
Members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes were directly affected by the policy, which First Liberty Institute says violates the Equal Access Act which bars discrimination on the basis of religion, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which requires “neutrality toward religion, not hostility.”
Additionally, teachers employed by the school district are barred from posting anything political or religious in nature on social media, or from wearing any religious symbol.
“The policy on posting on social media burdens the right to religious expression of teachers and staff by attempting to control what they can say about their religion outside of the classroom,” the demand letter states.
First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the Hardin County School District over their rules governing religious student clubs, and expression on social media by teachers.
During an interview on The Todd Starnes Show, First Liberty’s Keisha Russell called the policy towards employees “outrageous.”
“The law says that students and teachers, especially even teachers outside of the classroom have [the right to] religious expression,” Russell said.
The letter sent to district officials on October 24 gives them until Tuesday to respond, and Russell expressed optimism that the matter would be resolved “amicably.”
“I think it’s a misunderstanding in how much teachers and students are able to express their religion at school, but they don’t lose those rights just because they go to school, that’s not a reason to restrict those rights,” Russell said. “So I think it’s just a matter of helping them understand that they can maintain a balance and really respect neutrality in terms of religion and secularism.”
The institute’s demands from the school district request that they “immediately allow students in FCA or any other religious club to meet at all times when other non curriculum students are meeting,” as well as be permitted to advertise on school bulletin boards and use the PA system.
The demand letter also requires that the district remove the social media and “nonobstructive religious symbols” ban as required by law.
If the district does not comply, Russell said that First Liberty is prepared to take the case as far as their clients want, but are hoping they will receive a response “so we don’t have to do anything extreme.”
“We’re willing to do what we have to do in order to ensure that those students and teachers get those religious rights,” Russell declared.