Skip to content

Court puts hold on flawed policy in ‘In God We Trust’ school censorship case

Tenn. school ordered references to God and prayer covered up on posters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal court Friday suspended a policy used by Wilson County Schools officials to censor “In God We Trust” and other phrases referencing God and prayer on posters in the hallways of Lakeview Elementary School.  The court determined that parents and students represented by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys who filed suit against the school board are likely to succeed in their claims and ordered the policy halted while the case moves forward in court.

“Christian students shouldn’t be censored for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum.  “It’s ridiculous as well as unconstitutional to cover up these references to God and prayer--one of which is the National Motto itself--on posters announcing a student-led activity.  The court certainly did the right thing in making sure that this censorship doesn’t continue while it considers this case.”

At a hearing April 20, Kellum asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction in the case, Gold v. Wilson County School Board, and the court Friday granted the injunction.  The order means that parents and students will be permitted to post uncensored posters for the upcoming National Day of Prayer.

According to the order issued by the court, “Mere receipt of an invitation to a religious activity does not rise to the level of support for, or participation in, religion or its exercise to create an Establishment Clause problem.”

The posters were hand-drawn by students and their families to announce “See You at the Pole,” a voluntary, student-led prayer event held outside of class time.  The American Civil Liberties Union previously sued the school to stop it from recognizing such events, including “See You at the Pole” and the National Day of Prayer.  In May 2008, a federal judge refused to grant the ACLU’s request.

Each year, students and parents affiliated with Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet have placed posters in the hallways of the school informing students of the “See You at the Pole” event.  This year, each poster, made on personal time without the use of any school funds or supplies, included the disclaimer:  “See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led event and is not endorsed by Lakeview Elementary or Wilson County schools.”  Nevertheless, the students and their parents were ordered to cover up references to God and prayer and any Scripture passages on the posters or else they could not be posted.

ADF-allied attorney David L. Maddox is serving as local counsel in the case.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.