In yet another blow to those who have bought the “the ACLU just hates God” line from the religious right, the ACLU has successfully defended the right of a student to place a bible verse in her yearbook. The case involves Abby Moler, the 2001 valedictorian at Sterling Heights Stevenson (a school I know very well from my days in debate. I was the top speaker at that school’s debate tournament in 1984 and my student was in 1989). She was asked, along with a few other top students, was asked to submit a few words to the yearbook for her fellow students. She chose a bible verse and the school told her that they would not put that in the yearbook because it was religious. The Michigan chapter of the ACLU took her case and filed suit and the school district settled the suit today, issuing a letter of apology to Moler and restoring the bible verse to the yearbook as she had submitted it.
You see, contrary to the lies spread about the ACLU by the Pat Robertsons of the world, the ACLU is not opposed to religious expression, it is only opposed to government-endorsed or mandated religious expression. Had the school itself put the bible verses in the yearbook, that would have been impermissable, as it would represent the school’s views. But this was a section where the students themselves got to say something, and that means it represents her views, not the government’s views. That is entirely permissable, and to prevent her from doing so is unconstitutional.
The ACLU supports the right of students to form bible clubs and prayer groups, and supports their right to use school facilities on equal ground with all other groups to do so. They support the right of students to wear religious clothing (it’s too bad France doesn’t have an FLCU) and distribute religious literature (on their own time, not during class of course). They also support the right of outside religious organizations to use school facilities on the same basis as other organizations. It is only when the government itself imposes or endorses a given religious belief or exercise that the ACLU steps in, in great distinction to the hyperbolic and idiotic rhetoric we hear so often from the right wing about the ACLU being “God-haters” who just want to drive religious expression out of the country.