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Religious liberty wins out, sort of, in Georgia school district

Bob Kellogg   ( Thursday, January 02, 2014

There's been a free-speech victory for teachers and staff in a Georgia school district but the attorney representing them says the fight is far from over. 

high school students studyingFollowing a standing-room-only Bulloch County Board of Education meeting, beleaguered board members issued a notice affirming teachers' and staff's religious liberties.

That's the "victory" part in this First Amendment fight.  

Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys reports the notice reversed a hostile atmosphere the board had created.

That "hostile environment" caught the attention of Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes, who reported in early December that he talked to teachers who were instructed to scrub any religious references from their classrooms and to not participate in students' prayers.

That edict came after an atheist group send Bulloch a warning letter. 

In a letter to the school district, Liberty Institute argued the school district erred when it required teachers to remove a Christmas card display they had created, and the law group stated it was investigating other allegations that teachers were subjected to a hostile anti-religious environment.

"The board of education had said that you can't have any type of religious statements in your email signatures," including Bible verses, Dys tells OneNewsNow.

Dys, Jeremy (WV Family Policy Council)The attorney says he's disappointed that the school board is still unnecessarily prohibiting email signature lines for any First Amendment expression.

"They don't have to shut off that forum," Dye advises, pointing out the difference between speech that must be regulated and speech may be regulated, and speech that cannot be regulated.

"This falls into that middle category of speech that they may regulate but don't have to," he advises.

Dys spoke at a December school board meeeting in which he pointed out Bulloch cannot allow one school administrator to include a quote from coach Lou Holtz while prohibiting other quotes because they're religous in nature. 

Dys says the board broke trust with Bulloch County citizens when it capitulated twice to the unconstitutional demands of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. However, he says, the notice it just issued is a beginning in restoring that trust.

In a statement, the school district's superintendent had denied the school district had "changed or adopted" any rules that prohibited free speech rights, including religious expression. 

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