Seven years ago after See You At The Pole {Part 2 – the trial that followed the trial}

It was actually seven years ago TODAY that we found ourselves thrown into the midst of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.  Part 1 of the story is here, and yesterday’s post ended with this paragraph:

The ACLU uses misinformation and intimidation as their greatest weapons against individuals, businesses, and school systems.  Unfortunately, their tactics usually work.  People would rather give in to their demands than to stand up and fight in a costly battle. And it does cost!  It costs money, time, energy, emotion, and sometimes… it even costs friendships.

When the judge sent forth his ruling in the summer of 2008, we were relieved and ready to resume “normal” life.  The activities surrounding See You At The Pole were specifically listed and approved, and we expected everything to run smoothly from that point on.  Part of our school’s preparation and promotion for SYATP was a student/family-made poster contest where the students would bring in home-made posters about a week before the event. We would have a panel of judges to come and choose winners for each grade.  The posters had to contain information about the upcoming event and student artwork.  Praying Parents sponsored this event, and we would provide small prizes for the students.

As the new school year started, we began preparing for SYATP in the same way we always had.  The poster contest was announced, the children made their posters, and brought them into the school office as planned.  That’s when the second trial began.  Our school had a new principal and a new superintendent, and both wanted to avoid any more lawsuits by the ACLU, so when the first child turned in her poster, she was told that it couldn’t be used because it had the words “God” and “prayer” on it.  Seriously.  So the mom took the poster home, and that night the student covered up the 2008 theme verse.

This was the poster, after the theme verse and “In God we Trust” were covered up by a blue cloud and a red square.

SYATP poster 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

The next day, other posters came in, and soon I was called into the principal’s office.  The theme was “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  These are a few of the precious posters turned in that year:

 

SYATP posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP poster 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

 

SYATP poster 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP poster 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

Upon entering the school office, I was told that none of these posters could be used.  It was suggested that we have the students re-make their posters, leaving out the theme verse and the words “God” and “pray”.   However, because we were late in collecting them that year, we didn’t have time to send posters back home to be remade.  We reminded the officials of the judges’ ruling and that the posters were well within the student’s rights of freedom of expression, but this was to no avail.  I was literally sick to my stomach.  So were the other moms with me that day.  We begged and pleaded and prayed, and in the end, we were given some paper to use and told that if we covered up the certain words, we could still hang the posters to advertise the event.

I stepped outside and called our attorney at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF – formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) for some help and wisdom, and as God would beautifully orchestrate it, he “happened” to be in his office on that morning.  The ADF immediately made a call and sent a fax to our School District superintendent and the district’s lawyer reminding them of the student’s rights that were upheld, and requesting that the posters be hung in their original form.  He was refused.

So in complete shock and sickness of heart, we took the paper, scissors, and tape offered to us and covered up anything on those posters pertaining to God.  Then we hung them around the school.   Below are some of the posters and how they looked when we hung them in the halls.

SYATP Posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

 

SYATP posters 2008. SmellingCoffee.com

This all took place on a Friday, and the ADF continued to try to work with the school system – even giving them until the Wednesday morning of SYATP to uncover the censored words on the posters, but their answer was a firm “no.”   Though the judge had ruled against the requests of the ACLU, deeming that our SYATP activities were completely legal, the ACLU’s tactics of fear, mis-information, and intimidation were hard at work.  Our school district rolled over at the “thought” of finding themselves in another law suit, and chose to silence its children by censoring their speech about God and prayer as they tried to advertise a national event about God and prayer.

My heart is pounding as I write this next portion – because we were called by God to do something that I never would have dreamed we would do.  Word got out about the absurdness of the censorship at our school, and there was great concern among our area’s Christian families.  Many of us gathered for prayer, and after much deliberation, five families felt led of the Lord to push back against the trickery of the ACLU.  The only way to do that was to file a lawsuit against our school district on behalf of our children’s freedom of speech.  {Believe me, I totally get all of the arguments against this move.  I’ve played them over and over in my own head, and I’ve heard them more times than I can count from people we know, and from strangers who hatefully blasted us over the internet.  You may not agree with what we did… but we did what God asked us to do – and it is always more important to obey and please God than it is to live to please man.}

Another media frenzy ensued, but this time, instead of being on the defensive and having the support of the school, the teachers, and the community as a whole, we  were on the offense and felt very much on our own.  We had the blessed support of some of the teachers, most of those in our churches, and some of our community.  But many were tired from the previous battle and just didn’t want to fight anymore.  It had already become old news.  They didn’t want to have to continue to deal with the struggle, and wanted life to go on as before.

As this hit the national news, many prayed for us.  We could tell.  Bill O’Riley and Sean Hannity talked about us on their shows, and showed the pictures of Abigail’s censored posters.  K-Love and American Family Radio kept listeners up to date on how the case was progressing.  We did news interviews and radio shows encouraging other Christians to stand up against the strategies of the ACLU and like organizations.  We felt the propelling of the Holy Spirit.

But as the days dragged on, and the excitement died down, and other issues moved into the forefront, we soldiers became weary.  (At least this one did.)  There were times that I felt like I couldn’t hang on to one thing the Lord was teaching me in my morning quiet times with Him.   I would feel full of His power and ability to stand, armed with His Word… then leave my house and feel faint like the weakest creature alive.  Without meaning to, I let the words of strangers and of “disapproving friends” determine how I felt as I fought this battle.  See… I like harmony.  I don’t like to be at odds with anyone.  I want everyone to like me… and not everyone did… anymore.

The saddest part of all (to me) was that many district employees who called themselves followers of Christ chose to display loyalty to their employers and completely turned their backs on us.    People we had supported through prayer and encouragement… teachers in whose classes we parents had dedicated hours of volunteer time… people we considered friends… disassociated themselves with us.  It was as if we became mortal enemies of the school in one day’s time.  {I must insert that no one at the school treated our children any differently, and for that we are SO thankful!  In fact, our children didn’t know just how difficult on us this was.}


Headline: Christian students censored at Nashville-area school

Pete Chagnon – OneNewsNow – 4/23/2009 7:00:00 AM

The Alliance Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of students and parents against the Wilson County School Board in Tennessee.Lakeview Elementary School students wanted to display posters that referenced God and prayer, but school officials said they had to cover up those references before the posters could be displayed.The posters were hand-drawn by students and announced voluntary activities such as the “See You at the Pole” prayer event.

Nate Kellum is with the Alliance Defense Fund. “Well, Christian students shouldn’t be censored just for expressing their beliefs. They do not check their constitutional rights upon stepping [through] the schoolhouse gate,” he points out. “And yet that seems to be the philosophy of the school district here that they are selectively censoring their speech because, in their opinion, religious speech is inappropriate.”

Kellum says the school is arguing that the posters cause an Establishment Clause problem, and that some students might be offended if these religious students were able to express their beliefs.

He adds that ADF is merely asking the court to abolish the policy and allow the students to practice their First Amendment rights. Kellum expects a decision by Monday.

 

 

We asked for a preliminary ruling (the legal term has slipped my mind) telling us how the judge would most likely rule IF this came to trial.  And after MANY months of waiting and praying and standing and crying and praying some more… the judge’s decision was delivered, saying that he would probably rule in our favor – and that our children could use the words “God” and “Prayer” and other terms of religious expression on their work displayed publicly in the schools.  PTL!

Upon learning the probable outcome of another trial (and realizing that the school would probably lose) the school board decided to follow the original ruling of the court and allow our students freedom of speech.  In order to be declared the true winner in the case, we had to ask for a monitory settlement.  So each of us asked for $1.  And none of us ever cashed our checks.

As Truth&Triumph continues to profile individuals whose stands for religious liberty are transforming the legal landscape of America, we want to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening with those whose stories we’ve shared in past issues:

James and Jennifer Walker and Doug and Christy Gold

(“The Most Dangerous People In America,” Volume I, Issue 3)

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After winning against an ACLU lawsuit that tried to shut down religious expression in their children’s elementary school, ADF clients James and Jennifer Walker and Doug and Christy Gold hoped school officials understood the Constitutional protections of students’ religious freedom. But when the school ordered all references to God removed from student posters promoting an upcoming “See You at the Pole” event, the “Praying Parents” asked the Alliance Defense Fund to help them file a suit of their own.

“I admire their courage,” says ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum.“These families had no desire to be in another lawsuit, but they could not let this outrageous censorship stand. The school was telling their children – and other children – that they could not invoke the name of God, or mention prayer, or even utter well-known phrases like ‘In God We Trust.’ School officials appear to be having an allergic reaction to the ACLU’s long-term record of fear, intimidation, and disinformation.”

The allergies may finally be getting better. The parents won this case, too. 

This short article can be found here.

 

Sometimes Most of the time it’s not easy taking a stand.  What pleases the world is not what pleases God.  It is costly to follow the Lord and to push back against darkness.  But it is worth it.  And I am 99% sure that I can speak for all five families when I say that if required, we would go through it all again.  Personally, the trial of an unpopular stand was tougher than the actual federal trial we had experienced earlier.  But that courtroom trial and the months preceding it built the spiritual muscles and faith in God needed to endure the figurative trial that followed.  Though we don’t understand, we must always trust that God has a purpose in every pain… in every type of trial.

 Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressureand teach you true patience as you endure.And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey,then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.    James 1:2-5, The VOICE

 

Almost every day we are given opportunities to push against the darkness seeking to steal, kill, and destroy that which Jesus Christ brings (John 10:10).  Our nation is in dire need of Light, and the time is coming where God’s Light Bearers (those called by His name) must stop “hiding our lights under a bushel.”  If there is something going on where you live, something where religious freedom of speech is being censored, I beg of you not to sit back and wait for someone else to take a stand.  Maybe YOU are the one that God is calling to bear His light and to fight in His name!  “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”

Contact the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).  They will help you.  I will help you in any way I can.  We must all help each other as the days become darker and darker.  And as we stand, as difficult as it might be, as much as it may cost us our comforts, we will have the privilege of being a fighting soldier in the Lord’s Army… Where He is the One who really fights the battles and defends His warriors.  “I’m in the Lord’s Army, Yes Sir!”

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”    Isaiah 41:10

 

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;”  Psalm 144:1

 

“Oh my Strength, I will watch and give heed to you and sing praises; for God is my Defense (my Protector and High Tower).”  Psalm 59:9

 

A men, and praise to our Mighty God~

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PS: In case any of you are taking a stand and need a few back up verses to cling to, here are 93 powerful verses on God’s protection against evil.

 
About SmellingCoffee

I'm a Jesus-loving, husband-loving, family-loving minister's wife and mom to two teenagers, making our home and serving our Lord in the Mississippi Delta. I study, teach, speak, and write for the greatest Boss in the universe. "Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place": That's what you'll find at SmellingCoffee.com

Comments

  1. I remember well when you were going through this. Your strength and courage were, and still are, an inspiration to me.

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for standing up for your children and for the truth. What an encouragement it is that you acted when God asked you too and relied on the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide. So thankful for this decision! Blessings!

Trackbacks

  1. […] And if, by some chance, a teacher or administrator tries to stop your daughter from shining the Light of Jesus, I have experience with an excellent Christian legal team whose primary purpose is to defend Christians doing exactly that. (The Alliance Defending Freedom. AllianceDefendingFreedom.org) Our family has been through this before. You can read about it here and here. […]