Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights that we as Americans have. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, places limits on this freedom. In a series of landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has helped to define what types of speech are—and aren’t—protected under U.S. law. According to The New York Times, CNN and USA Today the Westboro Baptist Church has been protesting military funerals for many years. The Church has gained national attention from the press because many of these views are considered to be very extreme and hate related. The Westboro Baptist Church is recognized as one of the most well known hate groups in the world. Its primary message is that God hates the United States and is punishing the country for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Church chooses to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers to make the point that in their opinion soldiers are dying as part of God’s punishment for this country’s sins.
Do you think the 1st Amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church or should it be an exception and not allow the church to protest veterans funerals? I believe that the 1st amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church because if the court did rule against the church it would go against the first amendment directly. Since the protesters were protesting legally they can say whatever they want as long as it is within the law. That may seem harsh but, in reality the funeral attendees were never actually close enough to even see the protests, The father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder said in a statement from CNN that, as he passed the protest he only saw the tops of the Westboro Baptist Church’s signs. However, he was exposed to the signs and to the Church’s message when he saw the protest covered by the evening news; and later when he searched online to see what they had to say about his son. In conclusion I am with the law and the 1st Amendment that everything the Westboro Baptist Church had done is legal and is not punishable by the law. Although I do not agree with what the church did I think it was very disrespectful of the family and of America itself to protest at a funeral and say those horrible things.
- Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional IssuesKathleen Ann Ruane Legislative Attorney March 22, 2011Anon
Fas.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.
“Westboro Baptist Church.” Huffingtonpost.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.
Huffpost has an entire section devoted to the westboro baptist church and is constantly updating it with recent news.
Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com
“Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.Com.” TIME.com. N. p., 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.
In 1962, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Engel vs. Vitale banned official school prayers (3). Today, many people, like Newt Gingrich, are fighting to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow such voluntary school prayer (1). According to the free exercise clause under the first amendment, all Americans have the right to whatever religious beliefs they choose. This idea comes into play when deciding whether schools should allow prayers. Since the people have the right to their own religious beliefs, praying should be strictly voluntary. If a student was forced into such activities, it would go against the freedom of religion under the Constitution. Praying being present in schools shouldn’t make students feel uncomfortable or forced to participate. In order to make praying an option, schools must consider when the time would be most appropriate to pray. For example, schools could have set times where students may pray if they wish to do so. For those who don’t wish to participate, they should be given freedom to use this downtime as they please. Having a schedule that works in this manner can prevent students from taking advantage of praying. Some students may use it as an excuse to get out of class or an assignment. Praying is a spiritual value that some students may practice at home, and it should be respected while at school. Also, it wouldn’t be very respectful for a student to up and leave during a lecture to go and pray. Praying shouldn’t interrupt the lesson plan or their learning. There has to be some restriction on when praying can occur, but fully taking away prayers strips students of their rights as Americans. Besides, more good than harm can come from praying in school. “Americans agree that our children have been hurt by violence, gangs, drugs, and teen sex and pregnancy. Prayer in school would not have any negative effects on the children of America” (1). The only time prayer could be a problem is when it starts to affect a student’s own academic performance, as well as their peers. Over the past few decades, polls have shown that the majority of Americans are in favor of allowing prayer in schools (1). Our government is based on majority rules, and the people have spoken, so they must be heard.
- Helms, Jesse A. and Ernest J. Istook Jr. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? PRO.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252933&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Helms, Jesse A. and Bary W. Lynn. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? CON.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 19. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252935&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- “Highlights of Pending Senate “School Prayer” Proposals.” Congressional Digest, vol. 53, no. 1, Jan. 1974, p. 4. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=10576975&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Praying before sporting events is nothing new in our country, especially for football teams. Others and organizations, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are saying that these coaches are breaking the law. The First Amendment allows everyone to freely exercise their religion and also allows everyone the right to freely express themselves. So the controversy is where the line is drawn, and to the extent that these freedoms go.
The line between what should and shouldn’t be allowed in freedom of religion and speech can sometimes be a confusing one. Teams and more specifically coaches, typically like to pray before games. Often asking for strength, courage, and that players remain healthy throughout the game. But coaches and schools are coming under fire for it, saying that they are violating the First Amendment for imposing their religion on students. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has not only gone after Dunmore High School, but another high school in Birmingham, Alabama, for praying before football games. They say that, “Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.” In their letter however, they fail to ask if any students have had any complaints about it, considering they are the ones who would be effected. Unless a student has told their coach, teacher, or school that they are offended by this prayer and asked that it be stopped, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any harm. Sen. Lankford says, “Gratitude to God is certainly not a crime in America.” The only problem that could come from praying before a game would be if a student feels peer pressured to join in and not speak out against it. Although they always have the choice to not participate in the prayer as well.
The line for freedom of religion and speech for praying before games is definitely on the border. I don’t believe that it should be banned however, unless a student asks for it to be. Although since they have the option to not participate, I believe that others should be allowed to pray and practice their religion for the brief time before a football game.
Wertheimer, Linda K. “Opinion | Why You Shouldn’t Defend a High School Coach Praying on His Football Field.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Oct. 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/29/why-you-shouldnt-defend-a-high-school-coach-praying-on-his-football-field/?utm_term=.64aa0bb5a937.
“Alabama High School Told to Halt Prayers before Football Games.” Fox News, FOX News Network, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/26/alabama-high-school-told-to-halt-prayers-before-football-games.html.
Can high school teachers or coaches lead a prayer to students without violating the establishment clause in the first amendment? The first amendment allows any person to practice their religion while making sure the government cannot establish a national religion. Many professional sport teams and private high school teams pray before games, although public schools can not. This is because public schools are run and funded by the government. The establishment clause in the first amendment states that the government can not prefer one religion over another. A teacher or coach leading prayer can be seen as favoring that religion and can isolate students that practice a different religion. Multiple people have argued that this violates their freedom of exercise right, but it does not because if they did pray it would violate the establishment clause and other’s rights. An example of this is the Wallace vs. Jaffree court case of 1985. In this case, the supreme court ruled that a minute of meditation or voluntary prayer is a violation of the establishment clause. As an effect of this teachers and coaches cannot lead students in prayer.
Religious Liberty: Landmark Supreme Cases.” Bill of Rights Institute, billofrightsinstitute.org/cases/.
Essential Question: Should teams be allowed to pray together before games?
There has been a lot of controversy over the topic of the Freedom of Religion within the First Amendment. Many are at war over whether teams should be allowed to pray before games or not. The problem sparked at Santa Fe High School around 1995 and was reassessed in 2015 and 2016 after a few more sport incidents. The First Amendment may protect individual’s rights to freedom religion but when it comes to teams praying on a public school property, it is not protected. This is because the government is not allowed to promote religion in any way. How does this relate to a school sporting event you might ask. Public schools are owned by the government. If a public school were to teach about prayer, or allow teams to pray together before events, they could get in serious trouble because one may see this as promoting religion. Individuals may take a moment of silence but they must practice their religion to themselves so they do not violate others rights. Some may take The government regulates this closely so that no schools is deemed favored over another. There have been several cases of this and no school has won due to the fact that the First Amendment does not protect them on this matter.
Some may believe that this violates their Freedom of Exercise but it does not. They are not banning you from your religious practices as an individual but they are protecting the rights of others and the laws that they have to follow. If other’s rights are being violated then it can lead to serious conflicts between families of the school and would have to involve members of the school board. If word got out of conflicts like this, it could hurt the school’s reputation or would cause even more arguments from people not involved in the situation. For these many reasons, school athletic teams are not allowed to pray before games.
Membership, ALCU. “Your Right to Religious Freedom.” American Civil Liberties Union, 2018, http://www.aclu.org/other/your-right-religious-freedom.
Carlson, Mr. David. “Establishment Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 10 June 2009, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/establishment_clause.
Ash, Elliott T. “Free Exercise Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 4 May 2010, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/free_exercise_clause.
Green, Lee. “Prayer, Religion-Related Activities at School Athletics Events.” NFHS, 13 Apr. 2016, http://www.nfhs.org/articles/prayer-religion-related-activities-at-school-athletics-events/.
Each day millions of parents send their children to schools where teachers are ignorant, or disobedient, to the restrictions of what and how they can teach in the classroom. Topics such as religion, politics, and other controversial issues are being portrayed unequally, infringing upon student’s right to a fair view on the world around them.
Students have a wide range of religious freedom protected by the First Amendment in the classroom, such as forming religious based groups, praying in the classroom if not distracting, and incorporating their beliefs into school assignments. But, teachers have many more restrictions than students. In public school, teachers and school districts are required by the First Amendment to neither promote nor inhibit religion. Fairness is demonstrated when the curriculum includes academic study about religion when the content is tied to academic objectives to ensure a rounded education. Although court systems are not black and white, and many cases fall in a gray area, teachers should be educated on their overall limitations.
Because classrooms are not considered public forums, teachers must work within school limitations in their approach to sensitive topics, careful not to take sides on political controversies. Unfortunately this has not been the case especially during the recent election. The Washington Post published an article from October 14th, 2016 glorifying “Teachers of the Year” who are publicly going against their obligation to remain neutral involving political topics in the classroom. Instead of being punished for their violation of what teachers can and cannot do inside the classroom, their “moral imperative” to spread their opinions to their students was praised. Classrooms in my own school have shown evident bias towards political candidates, and teachers have encouraged students with the same views to act disrespectfully towards opinions of opposite views. If a small school in Wisconsin has such a large divide and lack of respectful discussion for students with a range of diverse beliefs, what other inequities are taking place nationwide, and what will we do about it?
In a lot of places, they pray before football and other games. It has been going on for a long time. Now, people are challenging if this is going against the law. The 1st Amendment gives people freedom of speech and religion. How people interpret that leads to conflict on this issue.
The football team in Dumore has prayed before games for a long time (read more here). They are now told they can’t and are not happy about it. They can’t pray before the game anymore because they were told it’s against the law as public teacher and coaches should not be involved in leading religious acts. The 1st Amendment says freedom of religion. Some people think that means that people should be free to pray if they want. The other side thinks that means students can choose to pray, but it can’t be led by staff because it goes against the separation of church and state. If people from a different religion or belief were there, they could feel pressured to just follow along or be treated differently.
In conclusion, students can still pray if they want, but the 1st amendment makes it so people can be free to practice their own religions how they want to and not how the school tells them to.(read more here)
“PRO/CON…Should sports teams be allowed to pray before games?” October 18, 2012 by Amy Ayala from King’s Courier
“When Faith and Football Don’t Mix” by Ken Paulson October 23, 2012
“Prayer Before Football Game Ruled Against The Law” by Stacy Lange 11/4/2016