During a heated exchange on Thursday, Fox News' Tucker Carlson of "Tucker Carlson Tonight" called co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Dan Barker “a bully who runs a highly aggressive interest group,” after Barker's group shut down a before-school Bible study group for first- and second-graders.
The Altruria Bible Club met at Altruria Elementary School in Bartlett, Tennessee, before classes in the morning, with dozens of students attending the meetings, according to WMC-TV. The group sent a letter to the school and told them to investigate the club to see to it that teachers or staff were not taking part in it, citing the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.
The school shut down the club, causing outrage among parents. The FFRF said in a statement to WATN-TV in Memphis that "this development is a victory not only for reason and the law but for the inviolable right of a captive audience of first- and second-grade students to be free from indoctrination in a public school setting."
Carlson and Barker exchanged opinions over the matter of the club being shut down. Carlson asked Barker if he felt good about shutting down a Bible study for children. Barker told Carlson that his group did feel good about it, and that "the school did the right thing" by shutting down the "illegal Bible club."
"Well, you bullied them into it," Carlson said. "Bullied them into canceling a club for first graders."
Carlson then asked Barker what the Constitutional problem was with what the club was doing, stating that school district employees have their right to free speech. Barker disagreed, saying that the teachers are the government.
“There’s a difference between free speech and government speech,” he said. “When those teachers are at the school, they are the government.
"There are families who wish to protect their children from the depravity and the violence that’s in the Bible,” Barker said.
Carlson and Barker argued over First Amendment rights. Barker refuted Carlson's statement that teachers do not give up their First Amendment rights just because they are teachers.
"You don't forfeit your First Amendment rights, or any of your Constitutional rights, just because you work for the government. You know that," Carlson said.
"Yes, you do," Barker replied.
Carlson finished the segment by calling Barker a "zealot" who flexes his muscles because children reading the Bible bugs him, and said Barker's pride in shutting down the Bible study group "weird."
The Supreme Court ruled that schools are required to allow religious groups to meet after hours on campus, if they allow similarly situated non-religious groups to do so in a 6-3 decision in the The Good News Club v. Milford Central Schools case in 2001. The Milford School in upstate New York claimed that allowing the private Christian group for children, The Good News Club, to hold meetings on school grounds after school was "the equivalent of religious worship."
The Good News club claimed that the school was discriminating against the club due to their religious beliefs, while allowing other groups to teach their definition of morality, such as the Boy Scouts of America, and the 4-H club. The Supreme Court found that the school allowing other groups to meet on school grounds, but not the Good News Club, was indeed discrimination on the basis of religion, and made their ruling allowing religious groups to meet on school grounds after hours.
"When Milford denied the Good News Club access to the school's limited public forum on the ground that the club was religious in nature, it discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the free-speech clause of the First Amendment," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority.