Thursday, August 18, 2011

9th Circuit: Idaho Charter School Teachers Have No 1st Amendment Right To Use Religious Texts

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by an Idaho state-funded charter school and two of its teachers challenging a policy adopted by the state's Public Charter School Commission. The Commission adopted the view of the state attorney general that the use of religious documents or texts in a public charter school classroom would violate Art. IX, Sec. 6 of the Idaho Constitution. That section prohibits the use of sectarian books or documents in public school classrooms. Teachers at the Academy wanted to use primary source documents-- including the Bible and the Koran-- in teaching their courses and argued that the ban violated their and their students' 1st and 14th Amendment rights. (See prior posting.)

In Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling, (9th Cir., Aug. 15, 2011), the 9th Circuit held that the school, as a government entity, cannot bring an action against the state, but a teacher does have standing to pursue the claim. The court went on to hold, however, that:
The First Amendment’s speech clause does not, however, give Idaho charter school teachers, Idaho charter school students, or the parents of Idaho charter school students a right to have primary religious texts included as part of the school curriculum. Because Idaho charter schools are governmental entities, the curriculum presented in such a school is not the speech of teachers, parents, or students, but that of the Idaho government. The government’s own speech is exempt from scrutiny under the First Amendment’s speech clause.
Judge Rawlinson concurred only in the result.