ACLU to Schools: Don’t Violate Religious Liberty
Letter to superintendents sent in response to teacher complaints about new Pledge rule
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2012
LINCOLN – On Monday ACLU Nebraska sent a letter to all Nebraska superintendents providing guidance on religious liberty and free speech rights for teachers. This was in response to multiple complaints from teachers that have been received by ACLU since the Nebraska State Board of Education passed a mandatory Pledge of Allegiance rule on August 10th.
The letter asserts that “a teacher whose conscience does not permit participation in the Pledge is exempt from the new regulations—just as students are.“
“A Christian teacher concerned about the policy cited a verse from Matthew 5 which, the teacher views as forbidding her/him from saying the Pledge of Allegiance,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Just as no student should be made to feel like an outsider or ostracized from the school community, no teacher should be judged on their participation in the Pledge.”
Over the past several years, ACLU Nebraska has received multiple complaints from both students and teachers in educational settings that require the Pledge. The complaints often come from students who report being “harassed” by school officials.
“Our public schools should be focused on education, not indoctrination,” said Miller. “We are pleased that most administrators respond quickly and appropriately when these types of complaints are made. We ask that school officials look into the guidance that we provided about this new rule so that the First Amendment rights of both teachers and students can be protected.”
While the ACLU has stated that nothing in the letter of the new rule violates the Constitution, it reminded superintendents that “those who recite the Pledge are celebrating the freedom of others not to do so.”