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2 school districts threatened with suit over free speech, religion policy

February 11, 2020 News Extra

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Thou shalt not restrict free speech.

A Harrisburg-based law group that focuses on religious issues is threatening to sue the Butler Area and Slippery Rock Area school districts if they do not remove a school policy that limits students' ability to express their religious beliefs in school. The request was sent to 55 school districts statewide, giving them until Feb. 21 before legal action would be taken by the group.

The problem with the policy in the two county school districts, according to senior counsel Jeremy Samek with the Independence Law Center, is that it misinterprets the separation of church and state as outlined by the First Amendment. By limiting students' rights to express their religious beliefs, the districts are violating the First Amendment's establishment clause, which not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions favoring one religion over another. Samek said the two school districts haven't responded yet.

This is an excerpt from a larger article that will appear in Wednesday's Butler Eagle. Subscribe online or in print to read the full article and find out what school officials had to say.

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