Ninth Circuit ruling allowing Poway school district to censor teacher’s patriotic posters mentioning God appealed to U.S. Supreme Court

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 24, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — The Thomas More Law Center announced today that it has appealed a controversial decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal was filed in the case of Bradley Johnson v. Poway Unified School District late last week.

For the past twenty-five years, Bradley Johnson, a high school math teacher at the Poway School District located in California had been displaying red, white and blue banners in his classroom that contained patriotic phrases such as: “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” and “God Bless America.” 

He displayed the banners pursuant to a 30-year school district policy that permitted teachers to maintain classroom displays of non-curricular messages that reflected their personal opinions and values. In effect, the school district designated classroom walls as forum for the expression of the teacher’s private opinions and viewpoints.

However, in 2007 school officials ordered Johnson to remove his banners because they promoted a “Judeo-Christian” viewpoint.

In an outrageous case of double standard, school officials allowed other teachers to display non-Christian religious displays in their classrooms. These displays included a 40-foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha hung across a classroom, a poster with Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins;” a poster of Muslim leader Malcolm X; a poster of the Buddhist leader Dali Lama; and a poster containing the lyrics of John Lennon’s anti-religion song “Imagine,” which begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven.”

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which defends the religious liberty of Christians, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district on behalf of Johnson.

On February 25, 2010, Federal District Judge Robert T. Benitez agreed with the Thomas More Law Center. He ruled that “Johnson was simply exercising his free speech rights on subjects that were otherwise permitted in the limited public forum created by Defendants” and that there was an “ongoing violation of his First Amendment free speech rights.”

However, the Poway School District appealed the ruling and a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Benitez’s decision, ruling that the school district was justified in removing banners that mentioned God, while leaving untouched the Tibetan Prayer flags and the images of Buddha.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center, commented, “This case is a prime example of how public schools across our nation are cleansing our classrooms of our Christian heritage while promoting atheism and other non-Christian religions under the guise of cultural diversity.”

Continued Thompson, “The Ninth Circuit Court’s rationale in allowing the Tibetan Prayer Flags and references to other religions while outlawing America’s patriotic slogans that mention God is unconvincing. Brad Johnson was simply exercising his free speech rights in a forum created by the school district to inform students of the religious foundations of our nation.”

Attempts to get a rehearing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals failed, and so the Law Center pursued its only remaining option — a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (appeal) to the United States Supreme Court.



Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 4:56 AM By InformedAndFree
Question: When was the last time you researched the judges for whom you blindly voted? Hmm? Please…strive to be an informed electorate.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 5:48 AM By Ted
This is so far removed from the formal establishment of an official religion at the federal level, which is the only thing the establishment clause means, that it’s absurd. If any one state wants to have an official state religion, that is NOT prohibited by the First Amendment, only the federal government is not to establish one. It’s in there to ensure that individual states may do as they choose, establish or not, whatever religion they see fit to be official there.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 6:45 AM By CalWalkr
Why in the world would anybody be surprised by this decision from the 9th Circuit. They have a long anti-Christian history which has made them the laughing stock of the judicial system. Decisions like this are reasons that most American’s have little or no respect for the rule of law. May God bless Mr. Johnson for his courage and Judge Benitez for his wise decision in support of common sense and fairness.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 7:09 AM By Doc Mugwump
Yes, appeal to the United States Supreme Court immediately. This is outrageous. It is an injustice that needs to be rectified now. I recall being in Moscow in 1991 just as the Berlin Wall fell – these were the types of “government enforced environments” in which the children of Russia were being taught. Much was lost to that once noble people whose government sought to erradicate all mention of the “Judeo-Christian God” – now the average Moscow female resident has had between 8 and 11 abortions. Their people are in rags and the quality of life is devoid of deep meaning… see what pulling God out of the equation leaves one with… nothing!

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 7:26 AM By JM
God bless Mr. Johnson and the Thomas More Law Center.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:16 AM By sam
Yes indeed it IS better to light just one candle (as Mr. Johnson has) than to remain in darkness. God bless him; TMLC and most of all America. Each of us can light A candle just where he/she is – let’s get busy doing so.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:40 AM By Georgia
Ted: Your comments are so far off that they are absurd. The article is not about the establishment of a church by the Federal government or the State government but about freedom of speech. Yes, there is no prohabition of the individual States establishing a State religion; it has been done by several states in the past.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 5:23 PM By MAC
The US Ninth Curcuit Court is the joke of the Country. It is known for illogical decisions and has been over-turned more than any other US Court in the USA. The US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” All other cases are fiction. Most States contain freedom of speech and freedom of religion wording in their State Constitutions. CA Constitution, Declaration of Rights, Article I – – – “SEC. 4. Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” SEC. 2. “(a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.” Teachers have done a lousy job teaching the US and State Constitutions.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 8:16 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
Georgia, Why are you admonishing Ted for his comments? Please explain! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Thursday, January 26, 2012 1:27 PM By Georgia
Kenneth: The remarks by Ted had no relationship to the action of the school or the lawsuit. Although the views expressed concerned religion they had nothing to do about the establishment of religion. The lawsuit is about the right to express an opinion, whether it is religion or any other subject.

Posted Thursday, January 26, 2012 10:26 PM By JLS
Georgia, religion is not separate from other subjects. Subjects deal either with God or with His creation; religion deals with both all the time. Thus, even though Ted may not have directly made the link, the link is there, implicit in his post.

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 9:05 AM By Georgia
JLS: You have broadened the subject even more than Ted. Yes all subjects deal with God either directly or indirectly. Religion is man’s relationship to God. It may be expressed in various manners—-from the very formal Eastern Orthodox—-the pagan human sacrifice—-to the atheist in his extreme negativity. Religion is part of everything we do in everyday life. All the Articles and Amendments of the Constitution are intra related, but when an appeal is madecharging a violation of one Article you do not enter arguments upholding various other Articles. The appeal was based on the right of free and equal speech.They did not contend that the state was trying to establish Hinduism Buddhism or any other religion as a State religion.They mainyain the Plaintiff has the same rights of free speech as others.

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 9:01 PM By JLS
Georgia, it’s because I’m not a cyclops.

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 9:04 PM By JLS
Look at it this way, Georgia. Catholicism is a religion that is not subject to temporal law such as the US Constitution, nor is Catholicism subject to modernist Cartesian philosophy which organizes reality into compartments such as what you are doing. To reason as you do is to subject yourself to the very power that you’re trying to overcome … The only route to freedom is Jesus Christ, not some system of national or supernational law.

Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 9:48 AM By Georgia
JLS: Glad to hear you are not a cyclops, therefore you should have a good perspective and be able to view the difference between free speech and the state establishment of religion. Also you should be able to recognize the fact that other than the True “One , Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church” there are numerous schismatic, heretical, and pagan religious groups. Christ recognized this when he instructed the Apostles —“Go, therefore, and make disciples af all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching themall that I have commanded you–“(Matt28,18-20).Also Christ said “Render, therefore, to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”(Matt22,21-22) This is the reason the “Thomas More Law Center” appealed the freedom of speech case to the Unites States Supreme Court and to Pope Benedict XVI.

Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 12:53 PM By Georgia
ERROR: My post 1-28-12, 9:48 AM The last sentence should read “…..the United States Supreme Court and NOT to Pope Benedict XVI.”

Posted Sunday, January 29, 2012 10:44 PM By Abeca Christian
Stop censoring Christians! Let the faithful hang his signs! It’s no big deal!

Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 4:43 PM By Pat
Kudus to both CalWalkr and MAC. The 9th Circuit is truly a joke. Imagine having a spouse or loved one as a judge on this court and being so embarrassed by their decisions that you could never admit they were even lawyers.

Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 5:56 PM By JLS
You’ve finally come around, Georgia, and connected all the dots.