School kills reference to God in first grader’s poem

School kills reference to God in first grader’s poem

God is dead, or at least not welcome in school assemblies. That is the message emanating from a North Carolina elementary school, which expurgated a reference to God in a first grader’s poem.

The Daily Caller avoids mentioning the child’s name but notes that she attends West Marion Elementary School. The poem was to be read in its entirety at a Nov. 8 Veterans Day ceremony to honor her grandfather, a Vietnam veteran.

That was until someone in the administration noticed that the poem contained the line, “He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength,” which needed to go.

A statement from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that advocates for religious rights and freedoms, criticizes the school’s decision. It reads in part:

America’s public schools should encourage, not restrict, the constitutionally protected freedom of students to express their faith. Students should not be censored when speaking about their faith or honoring those who valiantly served to protect our freedoms.… The censorship of this young student’s poem about her grandfathers is repugnant to the First Amendment rights of all students and sends an impermissible message of hostility towards religion.

But not everyone sees it that way. The DC offer the dissenting view written by First Amendment Center president and CEO Ken Paulson, who maintains that child has every right to mention God but not to inflict her beliefs on others. “When they asked her to read [the poem] at an assembly,” Paulson adds, the “dynamic changed.”

In Paulson’s view, the school was legally obligated to delete the reference to God, because public schools cannot sanction religious messages in captive environments like classrooms or assemblies.

A search of the First Amendment Center’s website turned up no reaction to either of two 2011 stories which would seem right up their alley. One involved a Georgia middle school teacher who included tenets of Sharia law in a lesson on the pros and cons of school uniforms. The other centered on a 12-year-old New Hampshire child whose American flag was confiscated by school administrators. A Google search using the same parameters for each story also came up empty.

It is possible, one supposes, that Paulson’s organization simply missed these stories. It is also possible that the watchdog group picks and chooses which incidents to take sides in.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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