Teacher sues after ‘In God We Trust’ classroom poster is ordered removed


A teacher is suing his school district after officials ordered him to remove classroom posters that make reference to God. The posters displayed phrases that are closely associated to the United States, such as “In God We Trust”.

Brad Johnson, who teaches at Westview High School in a San Diego suburb, is suing the Southern Californian Poway Unified School District.  The school district is under the impression that any reference to "Creator," "Creation," or "God" is prohibited by law.

The following phrases struck the school board as objectionable: “In God We Trust,” the official motto of the United States; “One Nation Under God,” from the Pledge of Allegiance; “God Bless America,” a patriotic song considered to be the unofficial national anthem of the United States; “God Shed His Grace On Thee,” a line from America the Beautiful; and “All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator,” an excerpt from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

The Thomas More Law Center announced on May 1 that it has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Poway School District, claiming that school officials violated Johnson’s constitutional rights.

“Cleansing our nation’s classrooms of our religious heritage and history advances no legitimate educational purpose,” commented Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Law Center. “In fact, such actions undermine the primary purpose of public education: to prepare students for citizenship in our republic.”

Johnson states that seven different principals, approximately 4,000 students in grades 9 to 12, and 1,000 parents have seen these banners in his classroom since 1982. None of them ever complained.

"These are lines from songs, mottoes, and slogans familiar to all of us as part of our history and patriotic heritage,” said Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling the case. "It is the responsibility of all public school teachers, including Mr. Johnson, to educate students regarding our nation’s history and its founding. Mr. Johnson’s educational banners serve that purpose.”

Thomas More Center attorneys argue that the school district’s ban is conveying "a government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility toward religion” in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to overturn the school district's speech restriction so that Johnson can continue to display his patriotic and historic banners, as he has for the past 25 years.

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