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October 20, 2005

Kindergarten and Constitutional Law

It's the "separation of church and state"* run amok. Some folks think that a kindergartener's artwork can constitute a breach of the Establishment clause.

Officials at a New York state school may have violated the constitutional free-speech rights of a kindergarten student who included an image of Jesus in his homework assignment, according to an appeals court decision.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan remanded the case back to a federal district court Monday for further consideration.

Antonio Peck, who attended Catherine McNamara Elementary School in Baldwinsville, N.Y., as a kindergarten student during the 1999-2000 school year, included an image of Jesus and other religious elements in a poster created in fulfillment of a homework assignment on the environment.

The student reportedly was expressing his belief that God was the only way to save the environment.

School officials rejected one version of the poster and then obscured a portion of the second version when it was placed on display at an assembly, citing concerns over its "religious" nature.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based public-interest law firm, filed suit over the second poster.

"To allow a kindergarten poster to be displayed for a few hours on a cafeteria wall, along with 80 other student posters, is far from an establishment of religion," said Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. "To censor the poster solely because some might perceive a portion of it to be religious is an egregious violation of the Constitution."

This is religious censorship, plain and simple. The circuit court agreed.
In its opinion, the 2nd Circuit panel said the district court "overlooked evidence that, if construed, in the light most favorable to Peck, suggested that Antonio's poster was censored not because it was unresponsive to the assignment ... , but because it offered a religious perspective on the topic of how to save the environment."

The misreading of the First Amendment and the misreading and canonization of one line from a letter from Thomas Jefferson have thus criminalized a 5-year-old's expression of religion, which, ironically, goes entirely against the Free Exercise clause.

There are bunch of teachers and administrators that need to re-take civics class.

* Not a constitutional principle

Posted by Doug at October 20, 2005 01:04 PM

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