In recent comments, there’s been a bit of a discussion about separation of church and state in the US and how it affects schools. The piece below, again from Volokh Conspiracy tells the interesting tale of a recent US district court opinion. A school district—apparently without intention—created a ‘public forum’ within its classrooms by permitting teachers to post signs and the like expressing (if not out-and-out promoting) religious and philosophical views. Having done so, it could not (as it did) prohibit the expression of some views while permitting the expression of other views:
Generally a public school has broad authority over what teachers say in class. When they’re teaching, or counseling students, they are seen as speaking on behalf of the school, and the school has broad power to control its own speech. And schoolteachers generally have no constitutional right to put up materials of their own on the walls, since those are the school’s walls, for the school to dispose of as the administration pleases.
But Johnson v. Poway Unified School Dist., decided yesterday by the federal district court for the Southern District of California, is a rare exception: The judge concluded that the school district had created a designated public forum for teacher speech, by allowing teachers to put up pretty much any posters they please in their classrooms, including:
The comments to the post at Volokh are generally interesting as well. Some are from the archly anti-religious; others from those more neutral on the subject. One link from a comment goes to an interview with Christopher Hitchens I think worth reading in full. In it, he discusses how the US is unique in having a constitution that draws a clear line forbidding the establishment of a state religion.