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Religion in school battles heating up gain

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By CHARLES HAYNES
First Amendment Center
Just when First Amendment principles seem to be working in public education, new fights over student religious speech threaten to reignite culture-war battles in schools across the country.
It's little known that many public schools made significant progress toward getting religion right over the past decade.
Thanks to consensus guidelines supported by advocacy groups from left to right, I have found that constitutionally protected student religious expression is way up in schools — and unconstitutional school promotion of religion is way down.
If schools now backslide into litigation and shouting matches, administrators who ignore (or misinterpret) the law have only themselves to blame.
On one side of the religion-in-schools fault line, some school officials are too quick to censor student religious expression on the basis of a mistaken understanding of "separation of church and state."
Last month, for example, parents in Cresco, Pa., filed a lawsuit challenging a local school's refusal to allow a fifth-grader to give classmates an invitation to a church Christmas party.
The school district, it turns out, has a misguided policy barring student speech that "seeks to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view."
Children, however, are not the government. Students should be free to express their faith — including a conviction that their religion is the best or truest — as long as they don't disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. If kids can hand our fliers about secular activities, then they can hand out fliers about faith-based events.
On the other side of the divide, some administrators are still living in the 1950s, when many public schools freely promoted the majority faith.
They either didn't get the Supreme Court memo about ending government endorsement of religion in schools, or they choose to ignore what the law requires of schools under the First