• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Imagine No God in Our Nation's Classrooms

    All high school math teacher Bradley Johnson wanted to do was honor our nation’s history and religious heritage the same way he always had. For twenty five years, a red, white and blue-striped banner adorned his classroom walls with national maxims such as “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God, “ “God Bless America,” and “God Shed his Grace On Thee.” A second banner accompanied it, containing an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, “All Men are Created Equal and They Are Endowed by Their Creator.”

    But displaying a portion of the Declaration of Independence and other national mottos was just too offensive to the Poway Unified School District in San Diego. It ordered Johnson to remove the banners from his classroom because they “over-emphasized” God – one school official said it might “offend” Muslim students. Fortunately, Johnson went to federal court to fight this absurd order (represented by the Thomas More Law Center), and even more fortunately, given that California is in the 9th Circuit, the most liberal appeals circuit in the nation, a federal judge found on February 26 that the school board’s actions violated Mr. Johnson’s constitutional rights.

    Judge Roger T. Benitez did not allow the censorship because “it has been clear for over 90 years that teachers do not lose their constitutional rights inside the schoolhouse gate, and that government may not squelch one viewpoint while favoring another.”

    It turned out that the school district allowed teachers to display other posters promoting controversial political issues such as gay rights and global warming, and banners showing other religious preferences such as Tibetan prayer flags, Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “Seven Social Sins,” and John Lennon and the lyrics of his song “Imagine,” which opens with lyrics about no heaven, no hell, and no religion. The school district just seemed to have a problem with Christian religious and American patriotic sentiments.

    No student, parent or school administrator had ever objected to Johnson’s banners – until January 23, 2007, when the entire school board ordered Johnson to remove the posters which “conveyed a Judeo-Christian viewpoint.”

    Judge Benitez was scathing in his denunciation of the school board, which apparently feared that “students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God’s place in American history and culture.” The fact that “God places prominently in our Nation’s history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson’s public high school classroom walls.” The board not only failed to comply with the long-standing policy that “a teacher’s classroom walls serve as a limited public forum for a teacher to convey non-curriculum messages,” but also went so far as to silence Johnson’s speech.

    Judge Benitez cracked down on the board’s bias, concluding that “by squelching Johnson’s patriotic and religious viewpoint, while permitting speech promoting Buddhist, Hindu, and anti-religious viewpoints, Defendants clearly abridged Johnson’s constitutional free speech rights.” An “imaginary” Islamic student was “not entitled to a heckler’s veto on a teacher’s passive, popular or unpopular, expression.”

    This is a common-sense decision that hostility towards our nation’s history, its religious heritage, and expressions of patriotism will not be tolerated in our public school classrooms. Hopefully, other school boards around the country will take notice.

    Colleen Kaveney currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    43 Responses to Imagine No God in Our Nation's Classrooms

    1. Cheryl, Sterling Hei says:

      Thank God for Judge Benitez! It's about time that some small measure of sanity worked its way into the 9th circuit. Let's hope that his sanity is contagious and reaches epidemic proportions across the country.

    2. Billie says:

      “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God, “ “God Bless America,” and “God Shed his Grace On Thee.” A second banner accompanied it, containing an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, “All Men are Created Equal and They Are Endowed by Their Creator.”

      Talk about intolerance. A belief that is harmless, peaceful and honest "could be an offense to Muslims"? Hopefully Muslims will defend their strength and demand words aren't put into their mouths. Unless of course they are weak and intolerant we are demeaned to tolerate? Oh yeah that's right, ACLU forced businesses to comply with muslim religion with American government backing them…hmm

      Total discrimination, favoritism, etc… conversion.

      God is no representative of any religion. These are words that only the weak can't accept, understand or tolerate. Only the weak dwell and take offense to something that holds no intimidation, no indoctrination, no threat, no danger.

      And only a tyrannical, ugly, preposterous American government would punish the peaceful strength of innocence to protect, defend and appease the weak. When freedom builds individual, wisdom and strength.

      Ignore, look beyond, overcome, or take on for positive growth.

      If anybody in America is too weak to accept the last quote, and the government too weak to acknowledge, then they're the destruction to the world.

    3. Pingback: PA Pundits - International

    4. Ozzy6900, CT says:

      This Country was founded under the precept of religious freedom. Our forefathers came here to escape religious persecution and the intolerable Church of England.

      The first amendment reads:"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.". There is NOTHING in this statement that calls for the separation of Church and State but requires that Congress (the government) not establish (proclaim, get behind, condone, support) any one Religion (such as England did).

      When Jefferson suggested a separation of Church and State, he simply wanted government to keep its hands out of religious decisions (which was common in those days). Jefferson wanted the government and religion to run parallel and not interfere with one another.

      All of this simply means that a person can worship the god of his choice in his own way (within legal limits for the human sacrifice crowd). None of these writings or laws ever meant that we could not display "In God we trust" or say a prayer in a classroom. One cannot be forced to pray but all must be respectful of the other. In other words, if the Catholics wish to take a moment an pray, the Muslims and Atheists do not have to join in but they must respect the righ of others to pray. Likewise, the Catholics must respect the Muslims when they do what ever it is they do.

      The fact that a minority of people can rule over a majority in religious freedom is totally absurd. The Supreme Court in its infinite stupidity ruled from the bench once again when it allowed one woman to stop all praying in schools years ago. It was an incorrect ruling of the first amendment then and has been bastardised since. America was founded with God in mind, fought wars with the help of God, faced dire situations with the direction of God and survived with the guidance of God. Just stop and think what most people say in a dire situation. Is it "Oh my Allah?", "Oh my Buddha?", "Oh my Satan?", or is it "Oh my GOD?".

      Remember, Liberals do not like God because God stands for something and Liberals stand for nothing!

    5. Pastor Jim Saunders, says:

      Muslims consider themselves the sons of Abraham just as Judo-Christians do and all believers in the God of Abraham. Jesus is even mentioned in the Koran as a profit so why would they get upset if God is mentioned in the classroom in a generic way. Some people are so PC that they are afraid of their own shadow or they are on their own agenda to remove God from daily life so that can be free to live as they please and do anything that please them. That way they will have no accountability to a higher power. Then they can be as greedy, and as lustful as they please.

    6. Cliff says:

      So…if you quote the Constitution, that could be unconstitutional?

    7. NaxyChazy says:

      Hello

      You will not believe what I just found! Foolioo.com makes free custom website for free. Yep! That's right, FREE!

      Never imagined it'd be so easy to get a free website and I really had to tell you guys.

      So if you're looking for a free website, give these guys a try.

      Bye

    8. Barbara F Delo says:

      Removing God from our schools is a big part of removing God from our nation. The impact will be enormous! What's next? Euthanasia? Oops. it's already started in Oregon, Washington State, and Montana!

    9. Linda Lubbesmeyer says:

      Thank you for this article. It gives me hope that the country is not totally lost yet.

    10. David Younker, Reno, says:

      The day that we allow God to be removed from our nation will be the day that we will no longer have a nation.

    11. Lynn says:

      Halelujah!

    12. Steve Patmont, Genoa says:

      Amen.

    13. Susan, DallasTX says:

      Well finally, a judiciary in the 9th District Court who doesn't legislate from the bench! Hooray! Restores my faith in upholding free speech. I'm so tired of political correctness. It has helped to squelch the rights of others. I can always count of the Heritage Foundation to get the message out!

    14. Donna, USA says:

      Personally, I think that perspective that the word God would offend some religious students is kind of lame. The word God is so general and we are a nation that is made of up of many different nationalities and religious backgrounds. The religious heritages from every people all over the world has enriched this nation like no other. I enjoy learning what other religious traditions from around the world have had to share with this present generation(s). We have had the most unique opportunity to benefit from knowledge shared from every walk of life in this present age like no other before. And there are a few common threads that run throughout all the major religions that have survived to this day regarding God. When we are young, most of us are taught that "God sees everything we do and hears everything say because God is everywhere." Now science is confirming that there is an omnipresent living intelligence that is everywhere all the time and knows everything about us down to the most minute details. (See: 'The Field' by Lynn McTaggart if you don't believe me) SCIENTISTS are saying they have found evidence to prove the existence of GOD! This is amazing for us since we have grown up with the dichotomous split in our psyche between Science and Faith. This is a real breakthrough. What this new science tells us is that there is an omnipresent being that encompasses everyone and everything on this planet. We know it is a non-dual, all encompassing presence. And many ancient peoples had contact with it in the ways they could understand it. Muslims believe in an all encompassing God. As do Buddhists, Jewish, Native Americans, and Christians, etc. It's not a separate God, but each culture has explained it differently. All these cultures are looking for something, trying to find the truth. The more we try to remove the word God from our peoples the more confusing that search becomes for all people. Personally, I think our people would be well served if world religion and it's significance in the shaping of the world historically and presently were discussed objectively in schools we would find much more common ground than we might imagine. And tolerance for the fact that the word God means many things to many people, but all in all, the ever present, all encompassing nature of God is the same to all believers. And now even to scientists! When we honor that and we see God as everywhere all the time, maybe people can get a grasp for the ancient teachings about how what you do to anyone here you do to God. And we can stop the fighting and the warring and the seizing upon that part of God holding something different in someone else than what he/it is holding in ourselves. (???) "Our religious heritage" as Americans is that we have borrowed our God from a whole other culture, we did not originally describe or name the God we claim a faith in. If it were not for us learning about God from another culture we wouldn't have that God to speak of ourselves. We should not down play the importance of learning about God from other cultures therefore. Whether we be Muslims, or Buddhist, or Jewish, or Christian or of any other religious leaning from any other culture. It is a weak thing to despise or find offense in other peoples religion in a free country of diversity and yet also equality. I don't see why the general word "God" can not mean to each one of us God as we accept it in the particular faith (or science) which we each choose to subscribe to at this point in time of our present awareness. All cultures have specific names for God, the word God is so general, such a core word, how can it be so offensive to any religious minded persons from any faith? If we keep teaching our students that the word God is offense because in our minds it always means the particular God of a certain culture we are missing the mark big in teaching our kids the meanings and importance of words. Anyone with a true study of their religion knows that "God" is a kind of generic word because all different faiths have specific names for the God they worship as they interpret or understand it through their cultures history. It should not be causing so much controversy.

    15. Kathy - honeybee57 says:

      This just makes my blood boil! This is still America even though as it turns out we've got a Muslim minded Soviet in the White House – briefly. They have been slipping in and building thier own communities for years and having their own churches just used for them. How do we know they are not training armies in them? Now they think they can take over the schools and brainwash the American children just like Obama thinks because Obama is not American and does not belong in this country.

      How many terrorist attacks like 9/11 and Ft. Hood do we need, to see the brainwashing affects of these Muslims comming into this country and building their own communities?

      American Teacher Bradley Johnson has every right to continue the American tradition he has been useing for years in American schools. The Muslims can go home if they don't want to be Ameicans in America! if they want to live in America they need to follow the rules of America! Ameicans shouldn't have to adhere to their rules in our country. What BULL!

    16. Scott Stevens says:

      Thank you for your research/ story. Praise our Creator for His continued mercy and grace.

    17. Cheryl, CA says:

      Donna, I couldn't have said it better, thanks! That is the first thing I thought of when I read that the school board thought those signs referring to GOD might offend a Muslim student…."why, don't Muslims believe in God?"

    18. Jag, Orange Co, CA says:

      Some common sense in the 9th circ, Imagine that. Are "the people" finally grasping our history? How great it would be to return to core values and keep our society from sliding off the abyss.

    19. Pingback: Libergraphica

    20. Janet Palmer says:

      One Nation Under God. I cannot imagine a Muslim Nation removing any of their religious writings because it could offend an American. Our Nation was founded on In God We Trust. We need to stand up for religious freedoms we are losing them fast. I as most Americans, respect a country's right to express it's beliefs even if I don't agree. Tolerance seems to include everything except Christianity.

    21. Juliana Cheng, Santa says:

      To those Americans who do not want to mention GOD in public schools…

      Please try to emmigrate to China, i.e. a known Godless country where Chairman Mao was worshiped as god.

      No, I am not from the Peoples Republic of China. I was not born in the U.S.A. I do not think that capitalism is evil. Nothing is perfect except God. I enjoy trying to be Godly. No way that I would want to be a Maoist. It is unfortunate that lots of the so called "good deeds" by the "new " Chinese government were not taught to the U.S. Educators. i.e. Evil deeds that the Senior President Bush knew of because he was a former C.I.A. to Red China. I was brought up by the public school systems in the U.S. I found roots in Arizona because my great grand father graduated in the class of 1896. He was a registered U.S. resident, a registered Chinese Laborer before Arizona became a state. He found God in Arizona. He returned to China in 1902 and became a very successful merchant with several Godly Chinese businessmen whom were NOT Buddists!

      Thank GOD for the faithful Christian pioneers in Prescott, AZ for keeping correspondences of great-grandfather mailed to missionaries to China before WW II. Thank GOD for giving me the research skills to dig out a piece of ugly yet bloody American history which was not publised in any recent text books because of the bloody Spanish American War hero-Bucky O'Neill who was decapitated, was a fellow/friend with my great-grandfather because he turned in a wallet to then Sheriff O'Neill in Prescott, Arizona!

    22. Rick Katy, TX says:

      Jefferson did not want a state religion like England's. He wished separation of church and state. As Christ said: "My kingdom is not of this earth.",,, "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and render to God that which is God's"

      We have to trust in God and ask His blessing since the government sure isn't going to do anything to" help" the American people or the nation.

      Good Donna, The word God does not offend most Americans. It does offend groups like the aclu which seems to be opposed to religious symbols and the Boyscouts. Our Christian heritage seems also to offend cair and its terrorists.

    23. Craig Johnson says:

      Amazing that even in the liberal Ninth Circuit, there exists a jewel of reason in the person of Judge Benitez.

      What is it about, "…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" as regards religion, that these UnAmericans don't get? The reality is that they do get what it is they want to transform America into,and have for a long time.

      The question is will we see these people, and these incremental insults for what they are; things that will ALWAYS have to be fought.

      Thank you Judge Benitez; thank you Ms. Kaveney; and thank you Heritage.

      Craig Johnson, President

      The First Amendment, Inc

      Host of "The REALLY Real Deal" on Blog Talk Radio

    24. Rob Cornoyer,Indiana says:

      Most people don't know the first school was started by the church over 200 years ago.The founding fathers left England to get away from persecution.Harvard,Yale,Princeton,Dartmouth.All those schools started by the church to turn out preachers.Then the well to do decided to send their kids back to England to be educated.Then they come back here and teach kids the same garbage the founding fathers got away from.The goverment came in and took the church out of the school.They took God out.Now they want to take God out of the church.Church and State simply means that the state can't come in and tell the church what to do.If we lose God in this nation then we will perish and other nations will collapse right behind us.

    25. Rob Cornoyer,Indiana says:

      We are not taught about God anymore.God is taken out of the classroom.Now they are trying to take God out of the church.The founding fathers started the first school.Harvard,Yale,Dartmouth,Princeton.All started by the church to raise up preachers.Then somebody got the idea to send kids back to England to be indoctrinated with the same garbage the the founding fathers fled to come over here.Government has ruined are schools.If we lose God in this country we will perish.And then other nations will collapse right behind us.

    26. Pingback: Teacher wins 1st Amendment case, school board put in its place « The Right of the People

    27. T. Grant in Florida says:

      With all due respect, just a few notes.

      The people who came to this continent in order to practice their faith as they pleased were not actually our "forefathers". They went out of their way to remain loyal citizens to their countries of origin. There were NO inklings of America becoming its own nation until 10 years before the Declaration of Independence. Then it had more to do with England trying to recoup losses by over levying taxes (due the French and Indian War) than it did religious freedom.

      The actual "Forefathers" of 1767 were Enlightenment thinkers (in the order of Adam Smith and John Locke). This meant that were Deist, not Christians. Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Bible so that he could remove all of Christ's miracles (and any other "magical" occurrences). Deists believed that God was a Creator, but that he was as disinterested with the finished product as a clockmaker after he has made and sold a watch). They were very interested in morality, but they were largely secular. They interpreted the Bible metaphorically rather than literally.

      Our nation was not founded on the words "In God We Trust." (It says on the sign above that it was added in 1956.) It was founded with a profound faith in the individual's right to find meaning in their own life and to follow the dictate's of their hearts and conscience.

      I do not mind if a teacher teaches the history of the use of the word God in our country's founding, as long as it is HISTORICALLY ACCURATE.

      I do very much mind if any teacher, from ANY political or religious persuasion, uses the classroom to push their own personal belief system- simply because they have a captive audience. A teacher may present facts and relay information about certain culture or religious rituals, but they may not editorialize or favor one over the other, or present information with bias or misinformation.

      PUBLIC school is for the children and families of the entire community. Parents are the final arbitrators of moral and religious instruction for their children (NOT THE STATE).

    28. Billie says:

      I don't understand how these peaceful, powerful, tolerant words can weaken any of mankind to be so offended?

      America, land of the NOW intolerant. home of the NOW weak.

      Why does the government control America to look like this?

    29. Jim JOnes says:

      Isn't this what charter and private schools are for>? You can teach creation and serve white toast and the kids will all have blonde harir and blue eyes.

    30. Rich McMichael says:

      Enough is Enough!

      But displaying a portion of the Declaration of Independence and other national mottos was just too offensive to the Poway Unified School District in San Diego. It ordered Johnson to remove the banners from his classroom because they “over-emphasized” God – one school official said it might “offend” Muslim students.

      ….I'm offended that I can't express my faith that the majority of Americans have expressed for over 200 years!

    31. John Roane Sarasota, says:

      God was taken out of our classrooms back in the 60's. If you totaled all the schools without God in them and those with God which do you think today would be the higher total?

      Please stop celebrating one class room and look to your own school(s) and celebrate when God is back in that school. We have a lot of work to do so save your energy for your school, and then we can all celebrate together. I pray that day is not to fare away.

    32. Drew Page, IL says:

      This is the impact a single individual can have on our American institutions. One liberal school administrator gets his nose out of joint over some patriotic posters mentioning God, and the next thing you know he has convinced a school board the posters are not politically correct. This is a perfect example of the tyranny of the minority. We have gotten to the point in this country that we so afraid of being labeled politically incorrect, or insensitive, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic that we have been afraid to open our mouths and complain about anything.

      Judge Benitez also demonstrates the impact that one individual can have on our American institutions. He has truly earned the title "Your Honor".

    33. TedN, St. Petersburg says:

      What is equally amazing are the many examples of posters and banners displayed in other classrooms described in the decision. For example, "How many Iraqi children did we kill today?" (pg 5, line 27).

      http://www.thomasmore.org/downloads/sb_thomasmore

      Considering the circumstances, besides that being completely inappropriate and counterproductive and demonstrative of the lack of common sense and descretion infecting our classrooms.

    34. Doug, Washington Sta says:

      Thank you to the teacher who stood his ground. Thank you to the common sense judge who interpreted the law as it was, not as he thought it should have read. And thank you to the God-given wisdom of the founders (and all that followed) who realized and backed up what they bravely said to enslaving leaders "…we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

      The Landlord of this nation is firmly a part of the people and its history. And He isn't going anywhere!

    35. Michael J. Webb, Pea says:

      This IS a Christian nation unlike what the current President speaks.

      People from all over the world die to come here knowing this Nation and its roots.

      The current President is sooooo just a one-termer AKA Jimmy Carter.

    36. Eric Potter MD says:

      Thank God that the judge used common sense and a clear understanding of the constitution to uphold this freedom.

      Our classrooms are run for the most part by ideologues that want to remove any reference to the Christian God, while being "tolerant" to all other religions and all other "isms". Most of America has bought their deceptions without realizing how blind they have become. Even those who claim "deism" as our founding ideals are decieved and would learn something from Eidsmoe's writings.

      May God remove the scales from American's eyes to see what has happenned, what is happening, and what will happen if the socialist ideologues are not stopped in our schools.

    37. Louis Levy Dayton OH says:

      To say the least, this is symptomatic of a subtle tendency that is going largely unnoticed, even though the war and hatred against US is somehow well-known. In effect it is difficult to imagine that some of the would be minds controllers and comptrollers go as far as trying to occupy and control the sphere of archetypes where it is about to inferiorize somebody in his own domain of thinking, behaving and relating to his beliefs (and especially his patriotic standpoint). Too sophisticated? The Bradley Johnson very case is a perfect illustration because this should never had happened in America.

    38. Mabel Le Beau says:

      If any foreign person living in the United States is offended by our God for any reason, they can always go back to their own country. If they are born here and have a different God then ours, then good.. You display your religion and I'll display mine, but, do not tell me I cannot worship my God in my country. Respect our ways and customs and we will respect yours. Don't deny us ours.

    39. Mark, Oklahoma City, says:

      Was the teacher specifically promoting one religion over another? It doesn't sound like it. In which case, yes, the 9th district ruled wisely. However, I see many responses claiming that there is a right to leave God in the school systems because he is mentioned in the Constitution and the Declaration. This is simply not true. If a school that receives federal tax dollars attempts to promote any specific religion whatsoever, it is in blatant violation of the spirit of the First Amendment, which was written to keep the United States government from endorsing or enforcing any specific religion. My tax dollars will not go to support Buddha, Confucious or Shiva. Nor will they support God. If I want to support my religion, I will leave the government out of it.

    40. bobthewalrus says:

      Good to see the 9th district making a sane ruling. Johnson did nothing wrong, and hopefully this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully one day people will stop fearing gods that don’t exist.

    41. Kathy, San Diego, CA says:

      I was happy to hear of this favorable ruling and the foundation upon which Judge Benitez based his thoughtful analysis. I was especially pleased because my child will eventually attend the subject high school. However, before I get too excited I am reminded that Judge Benitez is a District Court Judge (Southern District) and this ruling may still be appealed to what I affectionately refer to as the "9th Circus" Court of Appeals. Therefore, the 9th Circuit as of yet has very little to do with the decision reported.

    42. Blue Dog - Mich. says:

      Thank for for this judge and thank God for THIS TEACHER!

    43. Net Advisor™ says:

      "Poway Unified School District in San Diego…ordered Johnson to remove the banners from his classroom because they “over-emphasized” God – one school official said it might “offend” Muslim students." MIGHT? MIGHT? Did the ONE student complain?

      If I was in Iran, China, or many other countries protesting, carrying the American flag, or citing how I disagree with their country's religion, I'd be arrested or shot.

      In America, it now seems we have to appease to everyone in case they MIGHT get offended by 234 years of American culture, dis-vow references to God and remove the American Flag.

      Has any of these Flag burning Atheists ever consider that THEY are the ones who are offending America?

      I am offended.

      The Poway Board is welcome to leave this country anytime.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×