A couple of years ago, the Cheektowaga Central School District of the state of New York reprimanded a teacher who displayed Bible verses and other material about her Christian faith, and all the material she had displayed was removed from her room. At the same time, a social worker at the high school was permitted to display materials supportive of LGBT political and social activism, such as bumper stickers, the Human Rights Campaign’s “Equal” sign, and other related materials.
The alleged reason for removing Christian materials from the teacher’s room was that they were “offensive” to a student. The teacher pointed out that materials supporting LGBT activism are also “offensive” to some students. The situation was instigated when the school administration received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation alleging that an anonymous student was offended by the Christian material in the teacher’s classroom. There is no evidence that the complaining student has ever been identified.
The teacher, Joelle Silver, filed a lawsuit claiming that removal of her Christian materials infringed her First Amendment rights to speak of her faith and that the continued display of LGBT materials inside and outside the social worker’s office infringed Ms. Silver’s equal right to display materials that promote her worldview.
Judge Leslie G. Foschio who heard the case ruled that the teacher’s First Amendment rights were not infringed, but that the lawsuit alleging selective enforcement could proceed. Ms. Silver is represented by the American Freedom Law Center, whose founder and senior counsel, Robert Muise, declared that he will definitely carry Ms. Silver’s case forward, rejecting any insinuation that the school was right to pretend that a display of Bible verses and a prayer box was a breach of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
Christians who believe that the Constitution protects the free exercise of faith and who likewise believe that the LGBT agenda is a moral affront to society must make US culture a matter of sincere and fervent prayer. Not only is the school displaying real hostility to the Christian faith, but it is also displaying preference for a moral position that is hostile to the Christian faith. No Christian would advocate hostility toward individuals enslaved by the misconceptions that lead people to believe that they are homosexual, but no Christian would advocate that such individuals should be told that this attitude is normal.
Christians are not hostile to people who think they are homosexual and cannot change, because most people enslaved by sin believe that they cannot change. In fact, most slaves of sin believe that they do not want to change. They want to believe that their way of life is not only just fine, but also probably superior to the lifestyle of boring and ordinary people. Christians are hostile, however, to advocacy for attitudes and behaviors that degrade human beings. Homosexual behavior falls into that category. Murder, theft, and lies fall into that category. Christians reject the behaviors and they reject advocacy for such behavior, but they do not reject the people deluded by the advocacy. People who have bought into the lie that homosexuality is normal are to be pitied just as the person who believes the used car dealer who says, “Have I got a deal for you!” and then foists off a junker that will barely make it out of the dealer’s lot.
It is important for Christians in the USA to be assertive about our rights to speak and live our faith and to do such things in the sight and hearing of others. Christians who want to be able to speak and act must have the personal discipline to be gracious toward people who espouse views in opposition. Christians must never be the ones who attempt to keep other people from expressing their views. Rather, with love and commitment to Christ, Christians must simply ask for what the Constitution guarantees: the right to speak of faith and to live by the principles of faith.
The attitude expressed both by the actions of the school administration and the decision of the judge sound more in keeping with some central Asian “secular” government than with the US Constitution. In Tajikistan, for example, children under 18 may not even be taught about any religion. The government forbids it. Christian parents must be very wise in their choice of words around their own children, lest the children pick up and speak any words that the government forbids. If Christian parents in Tajikistan speak of Christian teachings to children, they can be arrested and jailed. Certainly, in Tajikistan, a teacher who spoke publicly of Christian faith in a classroom would be reprimanded, if not actually arrested. The USA is not Tajikistan, nor do Americans with any wisdom want to be like Tajikistan. Yet the behavior of the Cheektowaga Central School District of the state of New York sounds much more like Tajikistan than like the USA.
The United States has for 238 years been a unique nation. It does not have a state religion, and it prohibits the suppression of any religion. This is the power of the US Constitution. It is not convenient or delightful for Joelle Silver to go to court over her right to display post-it notes with Bible verses on them or to place a prayer box on her desk or her right to mention that she is a Christian with specific beliefs. Lawsuits are not fun. Yet, like the work of police and soldiers to defend what is good from aggression by the forces of evil, Joelle Silver’s lawsuit becomes part of the defense of all that is right and good. When evil attacks good, if nobody defends good, evil wins.
Pray that God will use Joelle Silver’s lawsuit in his work to protect the rights and responsibilities of Christians to be salt and light in a dark world.