The Religious Rights of Students in Public Schools

Are students legally allowed to express their faith and beliefs in a public school?  Constitutionally, the answer is clearly yes!  Sadly, many misinformed people give students the impression that their faith has to be left at the bus stop.  It is truly a tragedy that students who carry a Bible in the halls of their school are treated with the same suspicion as a student suspected of hiding a gun in his locker.  Thankfully, in spite of what some say and even do students have strong legal rights of free speech relating to their faith. Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr. and Dr. David Gibbs III, legal missionaries from the Christian Law Association (www.christianlaw.org), summarize a Christian student’s legal rights:

  • “Private prayer—Students are free to personally express themselves in prayer.
  • Bible reading—Students may read the Bible or other devotional material during free-reading times or study halls.
  • Symbols—Students may use notebooks, pencils, and other material with religious logos or sayings, including Bible verses.
  • Apparel—Christian messages on clothing or jewelry may be worn unless there is a uniform requirement that applies equally to everyone.
  • Assignments—Students may present speeches, write book reports and research papers, prepare show-and-tell displays, or do artwork using religious themes, provided such assignments follow the teacher’s instructions.
  • Open discussion—Religious viewpoints may be shared as part of class discussions when appropriate to the topic.
  • Performances—Students may sing religious music in a general concert program; such music is not devotional in a concert setting but has historical and cultural value.
  • Group devotions—Students may gather on their own time for devotions before or after school.
  • Tracts & other literature—Students may distribute Christian literature to fellow students or teachers on school grounds outside of class hours.
  • Bible clubs—Voluntary, student-initiated Bible clubs may meet on public secondary school premises during non-instructional time if other non-curriculum related student groups are also permitted to meet.
  • Graduation—Students may speak of God and may offer a prayer in a nonsectarian and non-proselytizing way in a student address at graduation.”

At NLBC we encourage our students to respect their authorities and follow the Apostle Paul’s example (Acts 16:35-40, 22:22-29, 25:1-12) of knowing and exercising their rights under the law.  There are many helpful resources available that clearly explain what is and isn’t legally permissible for Christian students in public schools:

There are also Christian organizations dedicated to protecting and defending religious liberty. The Alliance Defense Fund may even be able take up your case without cost:

Alliance Defense Fund

15333 North Pima Road

Scottsdale, AZ  85260

Phone: 800-835-5233  or 800-TELL-ADF

www.alliancedefensefund.org

Christian Law Association

PO Box 4010

Seminole, FL  33775

Phone: 727-399-8300

www.christianlaw.org

The American Center For Law and Justice

PO Box 64429

Virginia Beach, VA  23467

Phone: 757-226-2489

www.aclj.org

The Rutherford Institute

PO Box 7482

Charlottesville, VA  22906

Phone: 434-978-3888

www.rutherford.org

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