Every year, speakers are invited to public schools around Nebraska to talk about subjects like rejecting drugs and alcohol. In 2010, many parents contacted the ACLU with concerns that some of the speakers included specific religious messages to the captive audience of K-12 students. One of those speakers was then-assistant Husker football coach Ron Brown. ACLU warned every school district they could not host religious presentations during school hours. Coach Brown said he was not willing to stop promoting his religion.
“…public school children are being required to attend sessions during the school day that include encouragement for them to adopt certain religious beliefs, and these speakers are paid for by public taxpayer money,” the ACLU letter said.
The ACLU has come to the aid of students who want to express a religious viewpoint in school – but that expression must be the student’s, not an adult's.
Under the First Amendment, religious freedom includes two complementary protections: 1) the right to religious belief and expression and 2) a guarantee that the government neither prefers religion to non-religion nor favors particular faiths over others. A public school district that hosts speakers who endorse a certain religion is in violation of the Constitution.
We have continued to fight to uphold the First Amendment for the last 50 years.
2016 is the 50th anniversary of the ACLU of Nebraska. We will feature several memories from our five decades of defending freedom in the Cornhusker state here. Do you have a favorite memory? Share it with us!