Teachers have enough to worry about these days without adding religious intolerance to the mix. But unfortunately for Joelle Silver and Walter Tutka, administrators seem more concerned about their personal beliefs than their professional success. Silver, who is just 29, has been part of the science department in New York’s Cheektowaga District for seven years. As advisor for the school’s Bible Study Club, she kept a prayer request box in her office and kept Scripture post-it notes on her desk. Last fall, a student complained to secular activists that Miss Silver decorated her classroom with quotes from President Ronald Reagan and I Corinthians. At one point, the student said, she even referenced Adam and Eve in a discussion about the human rib cage.
At the prompting of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, school officials sent Silver an eight-page letter warning her that teachers’ “rights to free speech and expression are not as broad as if you were simply a private citizen.” Cheektowaga ordered Silver to tear down her posters and remove “even the small personal sticky notes” that she kept on her desk with encouraging Bible verses. To her credit, Silver didn’t budge. “As a Christian and as an American, I believe it’s incredibly important to fight to protect the rights that people have died to give me.”
And fight she will. The young teacher announced last week that she’s suing district officials for violating her First Amendment rights. Silver’s attorney, Robert Muise, told Fox News that Cheektowaga is treating religious material like a “disease that has to be eradicated.” “They essentially want her to cease being a Christian once she enters school property,” Muise said. That’s what should offend people–not quotes from the 40thPresident. When I was a Member of the Louisiana legislature, I authored a law called the American History Preservation Act that protects the reading and posting of a whole range of documents–from the national anthem to presidential speeches. If more states were willing to introduce measures like Louisiana’s, religious liberty would be protected in classrooms like Joelle Silver’s….