My Monday Morning Thought: Faith Belief and Flag Flying

A few years ago, students at an East Texas high school responded to the demand by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) that the school remove the Christian flag it was flying over the school by bringing their own Christian flags to fly on school grounds.

In 2017, FFRF sent a letter to the superintendent James Young of LaPoynor Independent School District demanding that LaPoynor High School stop flying a Christian flag alongside the United States and Texas flags in front of the school.

FFRF attorney Sam Grover wrote in the letter that FFRF was contacted by a former student following the school’s participation in the annual “See You at the Pole”  event. Grover argued that the flying of a Christian flag could be considered a school endorsement of Christianity and a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I don’t know the resolution to this case. If any readers do, let me known in the comment section below. However, whether the school has removed the flag from school grounds or not, it should. Grover is correct. However, if the flags of gender ideology are going to appear over public schools and hang in their classrooms in the Christian flag’s absence, then the double standard will make clear that the state has endorsed an particular faith belief—and this is a violation of cognitive liberty and freedom of conscience.

Apart from just the obvious violation of the principles underpinning the First Amendment, Grover tells us one of the many reasons why such principles exist, citing the Supreme Court: “because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are non adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”

In a liberal society, people are entitled to their faith beliefs. This entitlement lies at the intersection of cognitive liberty and freedom of conscience and it is a fundamental human right, a right recognized by the United States Bill of Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The protection of belief and expression in gender ideology is as important as protecting the beliefs and expressions of Christians. Whether you believe that girls are born in male bodies or that souls put in those bodies are broken by original sin, and thus in either case are in need of fixing, you enjoy an equal right to possess both beliefs.

However, you are not at liberty to impose those beliefs on captive audiences or enjoy government endorsement of those beliefs. To do these things or have these things done to others violates the fundamental rights of people. Cognitive liberty and freedom of consciousness are as much about what people don’t have to believe or say as they are about way they believe and say.

Why these flags and not the Christian flag? Both are expressions of faith.

Public schools are not the place for faith beliefs to be taught to children. It is not that faith cannot be expressed. If children wish to express faith beliefs on their own volition, this is protected expression. If an administrator, staff member, or teacher wants to express their faith belief in their own personal way, such as wearing a cross or a rainbow bracelet, the government can take no action against her. But if she proselytizes in her class, she should be disciplined. If she persists, she should be removed from the classroom.

Suppose a student asks his teacher why the wears a cross or the purpose of the rainbow wristband? The teacher is free to say that she is a Christian and even that the cross is an expression of deeply-held beliefs. She is free to say what the rainbow means to her and why she wears it. These explanations should be brief and superficial. If the student asks the teacher for more, then her response should be, if the student’s liberty is to be protected, that this is not a subject for the classroom and direct the student to follow up with his parents.

There should be no flags or signs in public school classroom expressing faith belief or ideological systems. No pictures of Jesus. No Black Lives Matter slogans. No gender ideology flags. School administrators should remove all these signs of faith belief from the classroom.

Christian flags fly on the back of students’ pickup trucks at LaPoynor High School in Larue, Texas, in this photo posted to Facebook on October 18, 2017. 

We have to put a stop to the indoctrination rampant in our public institutions. I know the true believers are supremely smug in their self-righteousness. I know they don’t believe they have to follow the rules because their truth is the truth—that double standards are fine when you have truth on your side. That’s what every authoritarian believes. But that’s not the way it works in a free society.

Want to proselytize? Take to the streets and share the good news with people who are free and willing to listen to you. Don’t do in the classroom. Children are a captive audience. We have a First Amendment. Find another profession if you can’t follow the rules. Teach the children. Don’t indoctrinate them.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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