When a teacher in Tyler, Texas, stopped a student from reading from the Bible during his oral book report, the student’s mother was stunned. “My son is a sixth-grader in middle school,” the mother said. “When he stood up to give a book report on Psalms, his teacher stopped him from reading Psalm 23.” The mother appealed to the teacher, but the educator was unmoved.

“It is not allowed,” the teacher said. At the end of last school year, a public school mother in Southern California reported that her son’s principal removed the cover of a class notebook containing students’ poems and art. The notebook was displayed as a year-end project along with notebooks from other classes.

Why did the principal rip the cover off this particular notebook? Because the children had decided that the cover should have a picture of two children praying in front of an American flag. One might suppose such incidents are rare and isolated, but according to public policy groups, the issue of religious expression in a public school setting remains a confusing issue for many educators and public school officials. And, in reality, incidents like those happen all too often.

However, this fall, public school students, teachers and parents will get a civics lesson on free speech, thanks to the Free to Speak Campaign, a project of Gateways to Better Education (GTBE) and the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

The goal of the nationwide campaign is to promote freedom of religious expression by sending 5,000 letters to public school officials and distributing 500,000 pamphlets to parents, teachers and students. “One of the most important civics lessons all students should learn is that freedom of religious expression is a fundamental right of all Americans,” said GTBE president Eric Buehrer in announcing the campaign. “And, this freedom extends into our public schools.”

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