Religious liberty, a cornerstone of America, is the very first freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In many places, including schools and college campuses, however, the right to freely express religious beliefs is under attack. The question is sometimes asked, “Just what rights do Christian students have in public schools?” The Christian Law Association's ‘Rights in Public Schools’ examines the issue of student religious rights. Christian-Attorney.net has also published the following list of 12 Students Religious Rights on Public School Campus:
- Students have the right to meet together for prayer, Bible study, and worship.
- Students have the right to identify their religious beliefs through wearing clothing with religious messages and symbols.
- Students have the right to talk about and express their religious beliefs on the school campus.
- Students have the right to distribute and share religious tracts and literature on the school campus during non-instructional time.
- Students have the right to voluntarily pray on campus. They may do so alone or with others if doing so does not disrupt school activities or is not forced upon others.
- Students have the right to carry a bible or other religious literature with them on the school campus. Students may read their Bible, etc. during non-instructional time.
- Students have the right to prepare school assignments, research papers, speeches, and projects from a religious perspective and/or with a religious theme.
- Students have the right to be exempt from activities and class content that contradict their religious beliefs. The school, however, may require that, during such activities, the student participate in alternate relevant activities.
- Students have the right to observe, celebrate or study religious holidays on campus.
- Students have the right to meet with and petition school officials.
- Students have the right to organize religious clubs.
- Students have the right to live according to their religious beliefs while on campus.
Christian-Attorney.net also offers this reminder that the above are general guidelines, to which there may be exceptions and qualifications. Be aware also that laws frequently change. Students are exhorted not to take the school's or the school district's word for what their religious rights are. Students are encouraged to do their own research or contact a Christian civil rights expert or attorney.
With regard to students voluntarily gathering together to pray, this year marks the twenty-third anniversary for See You at the Pole, a student-initiated and student-led movement that started in the Ft. Worth suburb of Burleson, Texas, in 1990. SYATP brings students to their school flagpoles to intercede for their leaders, schools, and families, asking God to bring moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses and countries.
This year’s event will involve more than just one day. SYATP has been expanded to Global Student Prayer Week, Sep. 22-28, 2013. At the center of the week is See You at the Pole Day — Wednesday, Sep. 25 at 7:00 a.m. local time. More information about this international event will be forthcoming.
Click here to take a look at this article related to SYATP 2012.