Liberty Counsel Opens Doors for Pastor During School Career Day

Liberty Alerts, Liberty Counsel

Liberty Counsel applauds the Larose Lower Elementary School for reversing its unconstitutional ban and permitting Pastor Gary Hanberry to participate in the school’s Career Day activities. He intended to make a presentation on the volunteer work that he does at the Compel-Crosby Home, an orphanage located in Kenya. Hanberry, grandfather of one of the students, was originally banned from participation based solely on the fact that he is the pastor of a religious organization. The School claimed that Hanberrry could make his presentation only if every religion was invited to make presentations at Career Day.

The Establishment Clause in no way requires the District to eliminate any and all messages with religious overtones or subject matter, even if the district was completely responsible for selecting the material. There is no constitutional violation when public schools and their teachers include symbols, music, art, drama or literature with overtly religious themes within the mix of curriculum or assemblies so long as the primary purpose for including the religious element is secular, not religious (e.g., providing a balanced exposure to a variety of viewpoints on a given subject matter or exposing students to an array of cultural experiences and narratives).

In fact, for the school to ban Hanberry’s presentation solely because it is religious would have been a violation of his rights of religious expression protected in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is particularly troubling that the District would not initially encourage a presentation regarding volunteer work with orphans as part of its annual Career Day. We are pleased that the District reversed itself after being contacted by Liberty Counsel.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “I am astounded that the school district attempted to screen out a career day message on helping orphans solely because the speaker was a pastor. A public school cannot censor speakers solely because of their Christian faith.”

Used with permission of Liberty Counsel.

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