A Christian high school teacher in Cheektowaga, N.Y., is suing her employer after district officials told her to take personal signs and religious items out of her classroom. Joelle Silver, a science educator who has been working in the Cheektowaga Central School District for seven years, decided to take legal action after receiving a letter (read it here) asking her to comply with officials' request.
So, what are the contentious messages and items in the classroom that were seen by officials as being problematic, you ask? WIVB-TV explains:
Silver had four small posters in her room with psalm verses on them, a poster with a religious quotation from Ronald Reagan, a drawing that the district said is reference to the crucifixion, a poster that had a Bible verse superimposed on the American flag and school books, among other items. The letter Silver received instructed her to take the items down and warned that failing to do so could lead to serious disciplinary consequences.
Superintendent Kane, who says he respects Silver's teaching abilities, says the materials were found to be inappropriate and the district determined they needed to be removed.
Silver is being represented by the American Freedom Law Center, a group that handles religious liberty cases. The lawsuit, which has already been filed against the district, also names Board of Education President Brian J. Gould and Superintendent Dennis Kane.
Officials apparently became aware of the religious messages after a student complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group devoted to church-state separatism. The group subsequently 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 of the actions that led her to file lawsuit. "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."
Photo Credit: WIVB-TV
The teacher also claims that she was told that participating in the school's Bible study club was forbidden, as it would look as though the district endorsed her actions. She also had a prayer box that WIVB-TV reports was ordered removed from her classroom as well, as it was being used during the school day.
Read more about the case here.