President Donald Trump celebrated National Religious Freedom Day with an Oval Office ceremony. He proudly signed into effect his administration’s new guidelines to protect religious freedom in schools.
Under Barack Obama, religion was a dirty word, President Trump observes. “Taking the word God down, taking the word Christmas out. I think we’ve turned that one around very good. I think we’ve turned both of them around very good.”
The First Amendment wasn’t written to protect atheists from religion, It’s there to protect religion from the government.
One conservative blogger writes, “Well done Trump Administration!” He then points out that progressives and atheists are up in arms. “Liberal and secular groups” are critical about the move, “trotting out the old mantra of separation of church and state. That phrase, by the way, does not appear in the U.S. Constitution.”
During the January 16th event, the President explained that states will now be required to report any and all cases where “public school students have been denied their right to pray.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 16, 2020
In order to qualify for federal funding, each state’s department of education has to “certify” yearly “that they do not have policies in place that would prevent students from constitutionally protected prayer.”
The states also are required to annually submit a list to U.S. Department of Education, reporting local school boards which failed to comply with the required certification. They have to disclose any complaints regarding a local board or individual school, “that has been accused of denying students or teachers their right to engage in constitutionally protected prayer.”
As part of the guidelines, state education offices have to issue “a clear process” for complaints to be submitted so that they can be promptly turned over to the federal government for further action. The same goes for any prayer related lawsuits that get filed.
During a separate evening Religious Freedom Day event, Jennie Bradley Lichter declared, “you don’t lose your constitutional rights when you walk in a public school.” She should know, she is deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.
At the event, several students told their tales of religious persecution at school. William McLeod is a Catholic who attends a public school in Utah. Most of his classmates are Mormon.
“It all started when I walked in the classroom. It was Ash Wednesday, and I had my ashes on my forehead.” all the kids in the class thought he had dirt on his forehead. “Because they don’t know, because they aren’t Catholic and they were all Mormon.”
Things got worse when the teacher got involved. “It’s unacceptable. Wipe it off,” she ordered. He tried “four times” to explain the significance in vain. “She made me wipe it off in front of all the kids.” His message for the president was “I just don’t want anyone to feel like that.”
Ariana Hoblin, a Jewish student from Florida was the only Jewish person in her middle school. “I was very open with my religion,” she explains. “I would announce when I would have Shabbat plans, which is a day of prayer and rest.” Her classmates started doodling swastikas on her belongings, even on her arms. “I was pushed and shoved in the hallway.”
Ariana was terrified to say she was Jewish and that bothers her. “Anyone in school should be able to say, ‘I am whatever religion I am. And I practice this and I believe this.'”
The Supreme Court ruled all the way back in the 1960s that “school-sponsored prayer” violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. They made sure to clarify that students are permitted to pray at school, either alone or in groups, as long as other students aren’t “compelled to participate.”
In 1992 the highest court ruled against prayer at graduations and in 2000 said prayers over a public address system at school games were a no-no.