Ruling forbidding classroom banners mentioning God to be appealed
A Michigan-based legal group said Monday that it would petition the full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a three-judge panel's ruling that a San Diego-area teacher does not have the right to display banners that mention God in his classroom.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled last week that Bradley Johnson's right to free speech was not violated when the school district told him to remove the banners from his classroom.
Johnson, a high school mathematics teacher in the Poway Unified School District, had hung banners in his classroom for more than two decades with phrases such as "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," and "God Bless America."
But in 2007 the principal of Westview High School in Rancho Penasquitos said the banners' size made them into a "promotion of a particular viewpoint." Johnson took down the banners and filed a federal lawsuit.
A trial judge sided with Johnson, but the three-judge federal panel overturned his decision, declaring that the school district, like any employer, has the right to regulate the workplace speech of an employee.
The Thomas More Law Center, which specializes in legal action to protect religious freedoms, announced Monday that it would ask the full court to overturn the panel's ruling.
The group noted that school officials allowed banners and displays that included Dalai Lama and Malcolm X posters, Tibetan prayer flags, gay rights materials and "anti-religious song lyrics."
"This is another example of hostility toward Christianity and attempts by public schools to cleanse our nation's classrooms of our religious heritage while promoting atheism and other religions under the guise of cultural diversity," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Bradley Johnson and his classroom banners. Credit: Thomas More Law Center