A public school teacher who sued the Cheektowaga Central School District in Cheektowaga, New York, after she was told to remove Christian-themed signs from her classroom was dealt a major blow this week when a judge found that officials’ actions did not violate her First Amendment rights.
Joelle Silver, a science teacher who also served as a faculty adviser in her school’s student Bible study group, reportedly had scripture displayed, a prayer box on her desk and a painting featuring three crosses on the wall, the Christian Post reported.
Judge Leslie G. Foschio of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed a portion of the lawsuit Tuesday, claiming that the educator could not argue that her rights were violated when the Christian items were ordered removed from the classroom.
“Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for violation of her First Amendment right to free speech,” read the judge’s response.
But the lawsuit also alleged that a school social worker — an adviser for a gay and lesbian student group — was permitted to keep gay rights messages on display, while Silver’s Christian items were removed.
While Foschio said the case cannot progress on the basis of her rights being violated, Silver can continue under the claim of equal protection and selective enforcement, based on perceived differences between her treatment and the treatment of the faculty adviser to the Gay Straight Alliance.
But Cheektowaga superintendent Dennis Kane said that the lawsuit against the district is likely to be dismissed, WIVB-TV reported.
“The case is over with, with the exception of an appeal,” Kane told the outlet, adding that he believes the district has been vindicated.
But Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, the conservative legal firm representing Silver, said that the battle isn’t over and that an appeal could be on the horizon.
A press release from the organization said Foschio’s recommendation on the case was “dripping with hostility to religion.”
“We are clearly witnessing the systematic removal of religion from all spheres of life, which is why it is critically important that we redouble our efforts,” said David Yerushalmi, an attorney representing the teacher. “We can assure you that the American Freedom Law Center will not sit idly by as the government tries to take away our first freedoms.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, officials apparently became aware of the teacher’s religious messages after a student complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group. The organization then threatened to sue if proper action was not taken to address the matter.
“I believe that my First Amendment rights were violated last June when I was asked to do some things regarding taking some posters down and to censor my speech in the classroom,” Silver said last year. “As a Christian and as an American I feel it’s incredibly important to fight to protect the rights that people have died to give them.”
It is currently unclear what will happen next.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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