Cheektowaga Central accused of violating teacher's religious rights

Jan 11, 2013

A suburban school district is caught between two national groups on opposite sides of the centuries-long fight over the separation of church and state.

Cheektowaga Central School District was sued in Federal District Court Thursday, charged with violating the religious rights of a high school science teacher.

Legal papers from the American Freedom Law Center say Joelle Silver was told to remove the many religious items from her classroom, from wall posters to Post-It notes with religious themes.

Schools Superintendent Dennis Kane tells WBFO News the religious items were removed at the end of the last school year.

"This all started from a group called...Freedom From Madison, Wisconsin. They're more of an Establishment Clause separation of church and state group. What happened was a student went to this out-of-state group and complained about the classroom and this teacher's classroom," said Kane.

Kane said  lawyers for the district's insurance company heard about that complaint and spoke to constitutional lawyers.  They recommended the religious material be removed, and it was.

Kane said the lawyers explained that having the religious material in a public school classroom violated the law. 

Now, lawyers on the other side say the removal violated the law.  It's now in the hands of the courts.