Freedom of expression. It’s not a difficult concept.
Basically, every human being has the right to speak his mind without fear of government punishment or penalty.
Accepted, reasonable restrictions on speech are generally very loose, like no yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium and no speech that is genuinely disruptive like standing up and reciting the Communist Manifesto while the teacher is trying to conduct class.
Yet somehow, school officials across this land often seem to forget that the right to freedom of speech, particularly religious speech, does not end at the classroom door.
The latest example comes from Somerset Academy near Las Vegas, Nevada, where sixth-grader Mackenzie Fraiser was given an “All About Me” report assignment that was supposed to include an inspirational quote.
When Mackenzie wanted to use John 3:16, however, her teacher said that biblical quotations and quotes from the Book of Mormon were forbidden by the school.
The incident might not have even come to light except that some months later, the same teacher made an assignment about self-esteem, and Mackenzie’s parents suggested using a Bible quote, reasoning that the reason Mackenzie has strong self-esteem is that she is made in God’s image.
At that point, the sixth-grader spilled the beans about her teacher’s prohibition of things scriptural.
Mackenzie’s father, Tim Fraizer, the pastor of Grace Point Church, fired off an email to his girl’s teacher, certain that there must have been a miscommunication.
The reply he received, however, was an email from an assistant principal, Jenyan Martinez, confirming that Mackenzie recalled the incident correctly and that the teacher was, in fact, enforcing school policy.
In her response, Martinez suggested that the reason for banning the biblical quote from the original assignment was because, as an oral report, the assignment would give Mackenzie a, quote-unquote, captive audience for her religious beliefs.
Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys told The Blaze, “When students go to school they do not lose their First Amendment rights. It chilled her speech and, as such, what the school is teaching these kids right now is that it is wrong to reference their faith at school. If they don’t apologize for this mistake … then the lesson that these students will take away is that it is wrong to reference their faith in school.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the academy said in a statement that it values students’ rights and the incident was under review.
The Mackenzies are asking for the school to apologize and allow their daughter to submit her original assignment with the quote for a grade, which seems very reasonable.
Had the situation been inverted, and an atheist student found herself banned by a Christian academy from using, say, a Richard Dawkins quote, the fireworks would be seen far and wide.
So why is it considered acceptable by so many government officials to impose on Christians’ rights while asserting a position of de facto atheism?
The right to freedom of speech should preclude any policy of selective “diversity.”