Religious Freedom Case at New York High School Could Move To Supreme Court

Religious Freedom Case at New York High School Could Move To Supreme Court

A high school science teacher at Cheektowaga Central Schools in New York is standing up for her constitutional rights to free speech and religion. Now the case could land in the U.S. Supreme Court.

(ThriveBuffalo.tumblr.com) In 2012 school officials at Cheektowaga School District in Western New York including the Superintendent demanded that all forms of religious teaching and scripture be removed from science teacher Joelle Silver’s classroom immediately.

The letter written by school district officials was received on June 22, 2012 and demanded Silver to cleanse her classroom, her speech, and her actions of anything religious in nature or face serious disciplinary actions including the loss of her employment.

American Freedom Law Center, the firm representing Silver stated,

“The School District also pressured Silver into resigning as faculty advisor for the student Bible Study Club, which was formed pursuant to the Equal Access Act.  To further this aim, the School District ordered Silver to remove from her classroom the Bible Study Club’s “Prayer Request” box, which was decorated and displayed by the club’s student members.”

The School District’s letter included the following order to Silver:

“Except for wearing religious jewelry, such as a cross, I am also directing you to refrain from all other forms of communication with students during the school day (whether verbal, email, texting, written, etc.) that would conflict with your duty to show complete neutrality toward religion and to refrain from promoting religion or entangling yourself in religious matters.”Finally, to demonstrate the mandatory nature of the School District’s orders, the “counseling letter” contained the following, highlighted warning: “Please be advised that your failure to follow any of the above directions will be considered insubordination, which could lead to serious disciplinary consequences, including the termination of your employment.”

In June of 2014 U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio found no basis for Silver’s claim that her right to free speech was violated when school officials ordered the removal of all religious affiliation from her classroom and speech, according to reports in the Buffalo News.

U.S District Judges Richard J. Arcara and Lawrence J. Vilardo later confirmed this decision.

Silver then appealed and her case and was heard by the appeals court in Manhattan this month (November 2016). The appeals court decision affirmed the lower court rulings of U.S District Judges Richard J. Arcara and Lawrence J. Vilardo and U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio.

The next step for Silver and the American Freedom Law Center in order to win the case is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has not been confirmed or denied by either Silver of American Freedom Law Center, yet.

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