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:
- Overview of a Students Rights
- Students Rights in Public Schools
- Alliance Defense Fund’s Knowing Your Rights – A Guide for Christian Students
- David Gibbs III’s The Rights of Christians in America’s Public Schools
- The Rutherford Institutes’s Teaching Public Schools the ABCs of the Constitution
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
Christian Law Association
PO Box 4010
Seminole, FL 33775
The American Center For Law and Justice
PO Box 64429
Virginia Beach, VA 23467
The Rutherford Institute
PO Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906