Buffalo teacher sues after being told to remove classroom religious signs
A schoolteacher is suing her district after being told to remove religious displays from her classroom or risk being fired.
Joelle Silver, a science teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School in a Buffalo suburb, describes herself as a devout Christian.
A federal lawsuit filed Jan. 10 says the district was overtly hostile toward her religion and violated her constitutional rights when it directed Silver last year to remove from her classroom several posters and other displays quoting Bible verses.
Superintendent Dennis Kane said by phone that a student had complained about the material to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based watchdog group, which prompted the district to seek legal guidance.
His June letter instructed Silver to remove several posters and sticky notes with religious references, including a poster with images of an American flag and text books with a superimposed quote: ``Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.''
Kane also cited the presence of a prayer request box belonging to the school's Bible study club and advised Silver to keep religious references out of her classroom lectures.
Silver's lawsuit, filed by the American Freedom Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., said the district's actions ``send a clear message to (Silver) that she is an outsider, not a full member of the political and school community because she is a Christian.''
Robert Muise, co-founder of the centre, called the case ``one of the most egregious examples of religious hostility I have witnessed in a public school.''
An attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation said teachers have to act neutrally when it comes to religion.