Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Schools can include God

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From Post staff reports

Wilson County Schools cannot ban the phrases “In God We Trust,” “God Bless America” or other religious references from student posters, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echol

One result of the ruling is that posters in Wilson County Schools for the National Day of Prayer scheduled for Friday can include the word God and other Christian quotes.

The case stems from posters made by children at Lakeview Elementary for "Meet Me at the Pole," a student-led prayer event, last fall.

School officials required the parents to change the posters or cover the religious content of the posters for the event, insisting that even “In God We Trust” had to be covered.

The parents covered the words with green paper provided by Lakeview Assistant Principal Bertie Alligood.

In response, five sets of parents sued the district. They argued that school officials violated their children's freedom of religion.

Echols ruled in their favor. He issued a preliminary injunction, barring the school system from censoring religious speech on posters. Any future policy must be "reasonable, viewpoint-neutral, and in accordance with federal law," he ruled.

He also said that this was only a preliminary ruling, and the final decision will not be made until after the case comes to trial.

Nate Kellum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund which represented the parents, said the ruling will allow his clients to put up posters for Thursday's National Day of Prayer without incident.

“We are elated with the judge's ruling,” he said.

Lakeview is the same school where last year, Echols ruled that the school system had illegally promoted religion by allowing a group called the Praying Parents too much access to the school.

This year, the school system was sued by some of the same Praying Parents for allowing too little religious access.

Kellum said he hopes Wilson County's legal troubles with religion are over.

"We don't anticipate any more legal action with Wilson County," he said.

Wilson County Schools' Director Mike Davis said the school system “will abide by whatever the judge ruled.”

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