The Power of a Positive Team

The Power of a Positive Team

(image borrowed from here)

Many think that you have to choose between positivity and winning. But the truth is you don’t have to choose. Positivity leads to winning.

Michael Phelps was recently interviewed by Bob Costas where he described his approach to building a positive team before the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

"Every now and then you hear a bunch of negative comments or someone complaining and during training camp at one of the meetings I said to the guys that we are getting ready to go to the Olympics, this is what we have to do and if there is a negative comment keep it to yourself. The more positivity we have as a team the better off we are going to be As soon as I said that we all became closer and then we really started getting going."

When I heard Michael say these words I was thrilled because he shared a truth with the world that I have witnessed countless times throughout the years. A team with talent can be good. But they must come together to be great. Positivity is the glue that enhances team connection and performance and it impacts office teams, school teams, church teams, and hospital teams as much as it does Olympic teams.

I’ve seen very positive teams with average talent accomplish more than anyone thought possible.

I’ve also seen negative teams with a lot of talent accomplish far less than everyone thought was possible.

Positive teams work together more effectively. They stay positive, connected and committed through challenges. They maximize each other’s talent. They believe together and achieve more together.

Positive, high performing teams don’t happen by accident. They are built by leaders and team members who reduce the negative and add a big dose of positive. When you subtract negativity and add positivity to your talent, the sky is the limit.

The great news is that you don’t have to be an Olympic champion with 28 medals to begin the process. You can be just like you and me. You can say enough with the negativity. Let’s get positive. Let’s get going.

– Jon Gordon (email)

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Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children

Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children

by Jim Elliff

All Christian parents wish that God would show us something to do to secure our child’s salvation, and then “we’ll do it with all our might” because we love our child so much. Yet, God has not made salvation the effect of somebody else’s faith; our son or daughter must come to Christ on his or her own. John shows us that all Christians are born into God’s family “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, [that is, somebody
else’s will] but of God.” (John 1:13)

Although salvation is the work of God and not something that we can do for our child, there is hope. Consider the following:

1. A true burden in prayer for your child is a gift from God. A persistent burden may indicate that God intends to give your child eternal life because authentic prayer always begins with God. Though we cannot be absolutely certain that we know all that God is doing, we should be optimistic if the burden continues.

2. The miracle of the new birth is no less possible for God if our child is attentive to Him or running away from Him. Our child is like all other children when it comes to God’s grace. He is dead spiritually whether he is in church or not, whether he listened well to the truths we tried to teach him or did not, whether he has some interest in God now or has none at all. He may be converted in the pig pen or the pew and we do not know in this case what is preferred by God.

3. God does hear our prayers. Though God has taught us that He chooses all who are His before the foundation of the world, He also taught us that we should pray, and not only pray, but expect the answer to our prayers. It is true that God is sovereign and it is just as true that He answers prayer. In fact, He could not answer prayer if He were not in control of all things.

4. We may have hope because of God’s election of those who will come to Him. Every child is on his way to hell unless God stops him. God’s election is our friend. We would have no hope for our child’s salvation without it, because no child would turn to Christ if left in his or her depravity (Romans 3:9-11). But given God’s election of people for Himself, we can be encouraged.

5. Your child has some clear knowledge of what it means to be a true Christian. The Spirit certainly may bring this to bear at any time if this is His chosen method. Though it is no less a miracle for a knowledgeable child to be converted than a child with little knowledge; God always uses the gospel seed in every conversion.

6. Your own disobedience in the past will not ultimately keep your child from becoming a believer. It is pointless to berate yourself for any wrong behavior on your part as if it were the reason your child is without Christ. This doesn’t mean that we as parents should not repent and do better, and even admit wrong to our children. But the reason your child is without Christ is ultimately related to his or her own sin. Every Christian parent is inconsistent in some way and is in a process of sanctification that leaves the parent short of perfection. This has never been a barrier to God if He desires to save your child. Illustrations abound of children who come from far less godly families who are nonetheless converted to Christ. In fact, this may have been the case in your own experience.

7. Some children may need the experience of being away from parental care in order to face up to their own need for Christ. The sense of need for many may be discovered only in the context of difficulties. We should not be surprised if it takes some solo flying before a child learns that he or she really needs another as his pilot.

8. Remember that there are lots of people who have come to appreciate their history prior to coming to Christ. I’m not saying that these people would not have wanted conversion earlier, but that the pain of the their pre-conversion history has left them with compassion, understanding, knowledge, testimony, and a burden that they would perhaps not have had any other way. They’ve seen God’s wisdom in the timing of their conversion. This may well be so with your child. Paul said that there was a reason he was chosen to be converted even though he was a murderer, blasphemer and violent aggressor—so that people will see and have hope that God can save anyone. God has a unique journey for each child.

9. You cannot save your child yourself no matter how hard you try. You are in a position of trust alone. This is good because it is the only way to please God (Heb. 11:6). Your rest in God, while simultaneously praying to the God who answers prayer, will be an encouragement to others in the same situation. It will also help you respond to your child more positively, and will make your life far more joyful than your anxiety ever could.

10. Finally, remember that God has a purpose in all He does. We will one day rejoice that God has done a perfect job of ruling His universe. When we acknowledge this and put God even above our children, we will actually demonstrate to our child the way a Christian is to live.

Revised 2014

Copyright © 2003 Jim Elliff
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in unedited form
including author’s name, title, complete content, copyright and weblink.
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Assigning Chores; Civic Responsibility

A major US newspaper recently ran a piece detailing all the ways children benefit from doing chores. Well, not all the ways. They failed to mention the most important benefit: chores, properly managed, teach citizenship values. “Properly managed” means children are not compensated monetarily for doing chores.

Democracies cannot survive when citizens have no need to perform uncompensated service, as in when big government provides everything. Since we are still a democracy, however tenuously, it is vital that children be taught proper citizenship values. And as your great-grandmother probably said, “Good citizenship begins at home.” During his 1961 Inaugural Address, President Kennedy succinctly defined proper American citizenship: “Ask not what this country can do for you; ask what you can do for this country.” The strength of a democracy depends on service. Likewise, the strength of a family is greatly enhanced when everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done to maintain a clean, comfortable, organized environment.

My experience with my kids, who were doing all the housework at ages 10 and 6, is that chores are a source of legitimate pride. They also prevent the development of a generally ungrateful (i.e. entitled) attitude. Contribution also assists children in “bonding” to the values of the family. Fundamentally, it teaches what “family” really means.

The ideal time to begin assigning chores to a child is shortly after the third birthday. If you’ve ever lived with a 3-year-old, then you know threes want to help when their parents are doing housework. Capitalize on that! Give the young child his or her own chores to do. Responsibilities define roles, so provide your child with a functional role in your family.

-John Rosemond (taken from the John Rosemond Facebook page)

leadership

Leadership consists of

nothing but

taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong

and giving your subordinates credit

for everything that goes well.

Dwight D. Eisenhower,
34th US president

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The Benefits of Positivity and Cost of Negativity

The Benefits of Positivity

and Cost of Negativity

11 Benefits of Being Positive:

1. Positive people live longer. In a study of nuns, those that regularly expressed positive emotions lived an average of 10 years longer than those who didn’t (Snowdon, 2001).

2. Positive work environments outperform negative work environments (Goleman, 2011).

3. Positive, optimistic salespeople sell more than pessimistic salespeople (Seligman, 2006).

4. Positive leaders are able to make better decisions under pressure (Institute of HeartMath, 2012).

5. Marriages are much more likely to succeed when the couple experiences a 5-to-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions, whereas when the ratio approaches 1-to-1, marriages are more likely to end in divorce (Gottman, 1999).

6. Positive people who regularly express positive emotions are more resilient when facing stress, challenges, and adversity.”

7. Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture, which helps them identify solutions, whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems (Fredrickson, 2009).

8. Positive thoughts and emotions counter the negative effects of stress. For example, you can’t be thankful and stressed at the same time.

9. Positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation help athletes perform at a higher level (Institute of HeartMath, 2012).

10. Positive people have more friends, which is a key factor of happiness and longevity (Putnam, 2000).

11. Positive and popular leaders are more likely to garner the support of others and receive pay raises and promotions and achieve greater success in the workplace.

The Cost of Negativity:

1. Ninety percent of doctor visits are stress related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with—for good (Rath, 2004).

3. At work, too many negative interactions compared to positive interactions can decrease the productivity of a team, according to Barbara Fredrickson’s research at the University of Michigan.

4. Negativity affects the morale, performance, and productivity of our teams.

5. One negative person can create a miserable office environment for everyone else.

6. Robert Cross’s research at the University of Virginia demonstrates that 90 percent of anxiety at work is created by 5 percent of one’s network—the people who sap energy.

7. Negative emotions are associated with decreased life span and longevity.

8. Negative emotions increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

9. Negativity is associated with greater stress, less energy, and more pain.

10. Negative people have fewer friends.

Excerpt From The Positive Dog

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A question of character

A question of character

PixTeller

Who would you rather have in your life — a person who lies and cheats or a person who is gracious and supportive?

If both of these people said, “I’ve got some feedback for you,” it is very likely that the lying person would provide insights from their self-serving perspective while the kind person would provide insights from a “service to you” perspective.

What would cause a person to lie and cheat, or to be gracious and supportive, or to be somewhere in between? I believe the core driver of such behaviors is character.

Human character can be defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” One’s character can be beneficial to self, to others, or some combination of both (which is an unusual pattern, but it happens).

Since humans don’t walk around with a billboard that proclaims our mental and moral qualities, people around us are left to interpret our character based on our plans, decisions and actions — how we treat others, who (or what) we are serving, and the like.

Our actions with strangers might consistently reflect our character. I might open doors for others or give a lady the cab I just hailed, choosing to wait for the next cab down the street. Or, I might open the door for myself, closing it right behind me, not noticing others following. I might grab that cab and pull the door closed, ignoring others that might also need a lift.

Our actions with those we interact with regularly — work colleagues, family, and friends — certainly provide evidence of how much our character leans toward serving self or serving others.

If, at work, I am mean, dismissive, call people names and find fault with others more than I find value, it’s unlikely that colleagues would describe me as having a servant character. It’s also unlikely that people would like to work for or work with a person displaying those behaviors — those of self-serving character.

They may not have much choice if a person of self-serving character is their boss or a team member.

I choose to insulate myself from those of self-serving character. I coach others to do the same thing. Life is too short to willingly expose yourself to jerks.

My servant character friends and colleagues are not passive players on this stage of life; they demonstrate passions frequently. The difference between people of self-serving character and those of servant character is they can debate ideas heatedly while continuing to honor the value of their fellow humans.

I’d much rather receive feedback from a person of kind, caring, servant character than from one of self-serving character.

Can we change our character? What causes our character to evolve? Experiences. Reflection. Feedback. These things can cause us to shift from self-service to servant interactions.

Ultimately, we must be vigilant about how we treat others, how our character plays out with strangers, friends, family, and colleagues. If we’re not serving others, we must shift our behaviors and our methods to embrace serving others.

What kind of characters (pun intended) do you work with? How do you manage those self-serving characters around you?

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Reblogged/reposted from SmartBrief

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Breaking The Ranks of the Enemy

ARNOLD VON WINKEL REID

image

SPIRITUAL ADOPTION  56-0923 E-55    Yonder in Switzerland not long ago, as I close on this remark… Many of you children in school, I suppose you still have it, of an old story that should never die, although it’s fading today in our country; but never will it fade in Switzerland where it happened. You remember your school in your reader of Arnold Von Winkelried, the great hero of Switzerland? You can mention his name today up in the Swiss Alps, and their faces will color up, and the tears will run down their cheeks. Many years ago… The Swiss are a peace loving people. They’re Germans who way back in the early centuries went down into the mountains where there’s no ore or nothing. But they bought… They had the intelligence of the Germans.

E-56    The Germans thinks he is a master race, is true. But he’s trying to invent a gun, or a bomb, that will conquer the whole world with his intelligence. But the Swiss is a peace loving man. He goes down and makes him a, gets him some material and makes his neighbor a watch and lives peacefully. Then up in the high Swiss mountains many years ago when they set up their–their kingdom, or, I would say their government… They was not a military nation; they were a peace loving nation. And one day when the invaders had come to their land, and was stomping out everything that they had… Nothing–nothing, no matter what they built, they rolled stones down the mountains, and it never bothered them. And they had the Swiss army backed up into a field at the bottom of the mountain.

E-57    And it’s so beautiful in Switzerland, how I’ve watched them, how they farm and on the lowlands, and the next is the cattle, and then farther up the mountain is the sheep, and all the way at the top is where they raise their goats. And how they have the yodel that these American Hollywood so-called yodelers make a mock out of. Never compares with it. How they blow their horn when trouble’s…?… and every neighbor run together to help when there was some need. Now we use it as a jazz band, rock-and-roll. Oh, it’s such a… how the pollution… Listen, friends, I’ll make the remark of my manager. If God doesn’t soon send judgment to this adulterous generation of people, He will have to raise up Sodom and Gomorrah and apologize for burning them up. That’s right, certainly. He’s just and there can be nothing else done, but God has to do it. And while mercy holds its arms open, flee to it. And there…

E-58    Up in the mountain where this little army was armed with such as they could find, of shields, and sticks, and saw blades, and whatmore they had, and pitchforks, backed up. The great alien army come with just like a solid brick wall. They were every man trained, and great spears, and they marched on, close, backing this little Swiss army against the mountain. They were hopeless, everything that they had tried was all black and dark, and nothing could save them. After while from the midst of them came a scream of one Arnold Von Winkelried. And he stepped out, and he said, “Brethren, today I die for Switzerland and for its freedom.” He said, “We love our homeland and what our fathers has fought for, and what our fathers intended for us to have. And today our great economy is at stake. And today I freely give my life for Switzerland.”

E-59    He said, “Yonder behind the mountain is my lovely home, and my sweet, loving wife and my little children, expecting me to return.” But said, “I’ll never see them again on this earth.” He said, “Today I’ll die for Switzerland.” He… They said, “What will you do, Arnold von Winkelried?” He said, “Follow me. I’ll break the ranks of the army. I’ll break their garrison. And then you take whatever you’ve got and fight as you best you can. As men of war, fight with what you have the best you can.” And he threw up his arms, and he looked around to where the very heaviest of the spears was a coming as he inched up. And he threw up his arms and screamed, “Make way for liberty.” And he ran towards those approaching brick wall. “Make way for liberty,” he screamed. And he run to the very thickest of the spears, and threw his arms around the spears, and gathered them into his breast and died.

E-60    And the Swiss men, as they followed him with what they had, it throwed such an excitement till it broke their ranks, every man was out of place; he didn’t know what to do. And the Swiss run in and won a victory. And Switzerland’s never had a war since. It’ll long be remembered in Switzerland. As long as there’s a Switzerland, Arnold von Winkelried will be remembered. But that’s a wonderful heroic. Never has it been compared. But it’s a minor thing, just a minor thing, till one day when the sons of Adam, when the law had failed, and when the justice of the prophets had failed, when the world was weak and could not save through the sacrifice of the lamb. The animal blood and the animal spirit could not return, it failed… Satan knowed better than that.

E-61    And where the justice of God, yet calling down the fire, and burning the fifties, and the judgment the prophets give to the earth, man constantly went on to perdition. Every hope was gone. God had sent the law; God had sent the prophets; and they had all failed. All hopes was gone for mankind. One day in the midst of the realms of glory, the Son of God stepped out and said, “This day will I go and to liberate the sons of Adam.” And while He stood yonder, when all hopes… The Devil would place sickness upon us; he’d put sin upon us. And we had to take it. Justice of the law demanded it. And if we failed to receive the law, which we were all condemned by the law, only justice could be exercised. There was no way out, nothing we could do.

E-62    But He stepped forth. The Angel said, “What will you do?” He went to the earth, and He said, “Now, you, everyone of you sons of Adam; you take what I give you to fight with, and fight as you can, the best you can.” And He never found a weak spot through theology, or neither building of seminaries, or the erecting of churches. But He went where the spears was the heaviest, down through the valley of the shadow of death. And He gathered death and sickness with His arms into His own bosom, and sent back the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to place in our hands of requiring of each son of Adam to fight as we can. Though you’ll be made fun of, though you’ll be persecuted, though you’ll be called holy- roller, everything else, fight as the best you can, for the victory is sure, and thanks be to God the enemy’s routed. It’s garrisons are broke. And the great Captain of our salvation is leading on today by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

E-63    Oh, sons and daughters of Adam, why set ye here until you die? Let us rise and do something. Let us take what we have. If it’s no more than a mortal lip that can still move, let’s give praise to God. Let’s thank Him for salvation. If you are a sinner, you can never call yourself out of the quarry of this earth that God has blasted you out by the Gospel. But stand still and let God saw you to–to place you into the building. If you’re sick, remember Jesus conquered both death, hell, sickness, grave, and all when He died for you at Calvary. Let us take what we have this morning and fight to the best of our knowledge. While we bow our heads in a word of prayer… And if I ask the sister to come and play on the piano some good hymn, while we all sensible, sane people…

E-64    Do you appreciate this morning the death of our Lord Jesus? Your churches will not work, though as good as they may be. Your schools will miserably fail, though good as they may be. Your doctor will miserably fail, good as he may be. But this morning let’s turn our looks; let’s turn our eyes from the laws of the churches, and the denominations, and the doctor’s office, and, as good as they all are, and let’s hear that voice coming from the shadow that overshadows us this morning. “This is My beloved Son. Hear ye Him.” Dear heavenly Father, as humbly as Christians can approach, we come in behalf of the lost and needy. Take these words today, and, O Holy Spirit that’s leading the Church, tutor Your children to God today. Many might have fell by the wayside and know not the way of God no more. They’ve been darkened and blackened. Their hopes has failed, but may they view again Calvary where You caught the fiery darts of the enemy of death, the enemy of sickness, the enemy of sorrow, the enemy of all mankind. And there You placed it in Your bosom and broke the way.

E-65    And down through that dark shadow this morning we see our home in glory. As von Winkelried said, “Behind the mountain is a home. They wait for me to come, but they won’t see me no more.” But Jesus, You never said, “They won’t see Me anymore.” You said, “In My Father’s house is many mansions. I’ll go and get one ready and come and get you and receive you unto Myself.” How we respect the gallant death of Winkelried, but he was a mortal. He could only die and leave behind. But Thou come to die and redeem, and bring us, not from our loved ones, but to our loved ones, not from our homes, but to our homes, and cut a line through the darkness of death that we could see beyond the veil where lays the blessings of God. And now, today, dear Father, if there be any of Your children that You have blasted with the Gospel from the quarry of life, and desire to so make them, and been cutting on them this morning, and hewing them, sawing off their habits, and their evil thinking, and their backbitings, and backslidings, and now You want to place them again and fit them into the building, will You speak to their hearts just now?

E-66    And while we have our heads bowed would there be some child here today who has strayed from the way, or maybe never come to the way, but you feel today that you would like to be included, you’d like to be a stone fitted in the building of God, would you raise your hand to Christ, say, “Christ, cut off my worldliness.”? God bless you back there, young fellow. God bless you, lady. God bless you, sir. God bless you, my sister. God bless you. Someone else? Now, with your heads bowed as we’re waiting on the Holy Spirit. And you know whether you failed God or not. Did you fail to go when your great Conqueror said, “Come, follow Me. Take up your cross, deny yourself. Come after Me, I’ll break the ranks of the enemy. I’ll break the ranks of sin. I’ll break the ranks of sickness. And you follow Me, and fight as the best you can, for I’ll make a hole through it, and our homes will be preserved unto Eternal Life.”

E-67    Are you an alien away from God? Just raise your hands when… God bless you, little fellow. Someone else who’s never raised their hands would want to bring up their hand, say, “Remember me, Brother Branham. Today I want to now come to Christ. I…” God bless you, sister. “I want to now come to Christ to be cut by His machine. Something this morning has touched my heart. I’ve been shook down on the inside of me. I’ve been all placed back here with worldly habits. The dirt and muck of the earth has uncovered, has covered me up, but the Gospel today has uncovered me. And I stand as guilty before God, and I know it. And I want God to take me as a stone today, and cut me out, and give me a confession of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and place me into His Kingdom. I want to be uncovered today. As I am uncovered I want to be saved and put into His Kingdom.”

Character Still Matters

“When I was twelve years old, the story broke of Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern. When my mother realized how disturbing my siblings and I found the scandal, she wisely went out and bought William Bennett’s "Book of Virtues."

Imagine my surprise and dismay when Bill Bennett, whose wisdom had helped me grasp the wrongness of President Clinton, told me to close my eyes and embrace Donald Trump. “I’m used to being the moral scold,” said Bennett, “but Trump is winning fair and square, so why should the nomination be grabbed from him?” This is a good question. Why should we not support Trump, a man who might have a shot at beating Hilary Clinton?”

The Problem of Character: Why Conservatives Must Reject Donald Trump

by Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo

The face that is emerging for the GOP is the ugly face we have always been accused of having—misogynistic, racist, and gratuitously authoritarian. If we assent to his nomination, how can we still consider ourselves the flag bearers of the attempt to harmonize virtue and the political life?

When I was twelve years old, the story broke of Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern. I was old enough to know that infidelity happened, but in my naiveté I never thought it was something that the president of the United States would do. Worse yet, instead of contrition, I saw only excuses and more moral failure. The news was full of attempts to separate the president’s personal life from his ability to govern, a president who urged me to consider a new definition for the word “is,” and a young woman not much older than I who was used by a president for his personal pleasure and then left to fend for herself when the wolves of public opinion came. I saw the president as a liar and a predator.

When my mother realized how disturbing my siblings and I found the scandal, she wisely went out and bought William Bennett’s Book of Virtues. Through Bennett’s voice, and through her own life, she taught us that the moral life matters because our actions result from our character, and our habits matter because they help determine our character.

I’m older now, and I have a better understanding of how people can mean well and still fail. I know now that politics involves compromises, and clearly moral and political failure exist on both sides of the aisle. Though I was inclined to seriously consider some of the policies of the Democratic Party, as the Clintons continued to be involved in various scandals and the party became more entrenched in the defense of legalized abortion, I did not think that Democratic leadership aspired to the kind of statesmanship I longed to see. My most important personal heroes believed that through conservative politics—armed with an understanding of the role of law in moral education and of the principle of subsidiarity—we could protect the vulnerable, particularly the unborn, while also respecting citizens as rational and self-ruling beings. Although I was aware of the factions of the Republican Party who compared Mexicans to rats or called the president uppity, I thought that the best of the Republicans still asked the most serious questions about the connection between moral life and public policy.

And then Donald Trump happened.

Conservative politicians have been caught in scandals before, but Trump represents something new. Instead of talking about the relationship between virtue and power, Trump talks about power alone. Imagine my surprise and dismay when Bill Bennett, whose wisdom had helped me grasp the wrongness of President Clinton, told me to close my eyes and embrace Trump. “I’m used to being the moral scold,” said Bennett, “but Trump is winning fair and square, so why should the nomination be grabbed from him?” This is a good question. Why should we not support Trump, a man who might have a shot at beating Hilary Clinton?

The answer lies in another question that Republicans must ask themselves: would a win with Trump really be a win? Or would it be a Pyrrhic victory—one that would change us in ways we cannot imagine?

Virtue and Judgment

In Trump’s very public private life and in his florid candidacy, we easily find the flourishing of human vice. The problem with vice, as Aristotle teaches us, is that it is closely related to a problem of judgment. Trump has supported the passion of his followers who have shown violence to Hispanics, he has called African Americans lazy, and he has cast aspersions on interracial marriages. His misogyny is legendary. He publicly said of one of the mothers of his children that she had “nice tits, no brains” and has even openly talked about his own daughter in terms of her sexual desirability. In a particularly disgusting show of the love of domination, he has made fun of the disabled.

Some might optimistically view these words and deeds as provocative at best, or distasteful or juvenile at worst. I think they reflect the unsavory habits of stoking division, viewing others as objects, and attacking the vulnerable. Still, even if these casually vicious attitudes do not bother us, perhaps his draconian policies—banning all Muslims from immigrating to the United States? building a wall between the United States and Mexico?—should give us pause. Shouldn’t his disturbing promise of intrinsically evil acts, like the deliberate targeting of terrorists’ families, jolt us into seeing what he really is?

His past endorsements of another intrinsically evil act, abortion, make his current stance on this issue unclear. Yesterday, Trump unveiled a list of judges meant to appeal to his critics in the GOP. But can we trust him? I doubt it. The announcement of this list came on the same day that The New York Times published a profile in which Trump tells a bald-faced lie meant to repair the damage done by his March statement about legally punishing women who have had abortions. He told the Times, “I didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves. I didn’t want people to think in terms of ‘prison’ punishment. And because of that I walked it back.” Anyone who reads his initial comments will see this is clearly not what he meant.

If we have not yet come to our senses, it is not due to a lack of such morally repugnant behavior on Trump’s part. And, as he recently assured us, Trump will continue to give us more of the same: “You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series—you gonna change?”

The Imperfectibility of the Moral Life

For everyone seeking to improve his or her character the moral life is aspirational. We each struggle with moral failings of countless varieties. This is why public commitment to principles of virtue is so important, both culturally and politically. But at no point has Trump’s hyper-public moral life taken on the character of a struggle for self-mastery—unless you count the attempt to marshal all one’s talents of cunning and speech into the domination of others as a feat of moral virtue.

“What about conversion?” some might ask. Who am I to judge the hearts of men?

Valid as this question may be, conservatives simply cannot have it both ways. We cannot see our ability to judge character as great enough for us to engage in legislation concerning the moral life, or to disparage the legacy of the Clintons and the Kennedys of the world, and then pretend that we are incapable of coming to some sort of judgment about Trump’s character based on his actions and words. Trump does not become absolved of his many past and present transgressions and ruthless acts, just because he becomes “one of us.”

To be sure, God uses the sinful. For this I am grateful; otherwise we would all be lost. Yet the problem with Trump is not that he is sinful per se, but that he is vicious in a way that shows a deep absence of practical wisdom and a desire to remain ignorant of the knowledge of the good. Some members of the religious right compare him to King David and King Cyrus, who serve as examples of God using the fallen to accomplish his goals. However, these men showed the disposition to at least consider the possibility of moderation, a doorway for the entrance of prudence and the Holy Spirit.

For students of Christianity and politics to close our eyes to the tyrannical nature of Trump would be an abandonment of Christ’s mandate to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Paul of Tarsus may have converted after God struck him down on the road to Damascus, but no Christian in her right mind would have desired to place him in high office over her when he was in thrall to his lowest passions.

The Lesser of Two Evils?

Many highly intelligent people of considerable personal character are contemplating a vote for Trump. This is not because of who he is, but because of who he is not.

I understand that such people, including many whom I know and admire, have not come to this conclusion out of admiration for Trump but out of a feeling of necessity. They see Trump’s vicious character, but they either view him as the lesser of two evils, or as Ross Douthat so wisely observes, they see in him a useful strong man for the secular age.

But this is a projection of their own moral universe onto the psychology of Trump. They want him to play fair in a way that he never will. In exchange for their vote, they think this man will listen to them. Why would a man who is used to ridiculing, exploiting, and dominating the vulnerable feel that he owes us anything when he comes into power—even if he used us to get that power? If we take the unity of the virtues seriously, why would we believe that he would keep his promises to us when he abandoned two wives and four children and when he has left his own family members in the breach in their times of direst need?

Perhaps, some might argue, it is not that we should have faith in him. Rather, we should trust our own ability to harness him for our own purposes. We should have faith that we can use him to smash institutions and wipe out the corruption that dominates our ossified political structure. Yet this position too ignores the reality of Trump’s character. Why would a man of such expansive appetites submit to the kinds of constitutional checks and balances held dear by conservative thinkers? Remember, this is a man who uses intimidation and coercion to quash politicians and journalists who disagree with him.

The GOP and the Problem of Character

What helped me to distinguish between the Republicans and the Democrats when I was younger is that the Republicans showed the kind of aspiration found in Cicero, the hope that political freedom and moral virtue might coexist and mutually enrich each other in a republic. There was a time when I thought the Republican Party attempted to articulate itself in terms of traditional ideas of virtue, character, and statesmanship.

Reasonable people will always disagree on the best way to solve policy questions. The question whether to support Trump, however, is more than a dispute about the best use of our resources or the best way to regard our natural rights. His nomination is simply a bridge too far. With the appearance of Trump as our nominee, we have become what the smartest among “value voters” have always feared. We are a faction of a coalition party; our votes are expected, but our voices are not heard. In what way can our commitments to the defense of human freedom and human dignity be taken to be the party’s any longer?

The face that is emerging for the GOP is the ugly face we have always been accused of having—misogynistic, racist, and gratuitously authoritarian. If we assent to this, how can we still consider ourselves the flag bearers of the attempt to harmonize traditional accounts of virtue and the political life? We must let the party know that their acceptance of Donald Trump is unacceptable. If he receives the nomination, I fear it will be taken as evidence that the GOP’s words about virtue were always just means to power. And if he is elected president, people making that critique might be right.

Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo is assistant professor of political science at Texas State University starting in the fall of 2016.

Reposted from thePublicDiscourse

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Grandparents & Grandchildren #flashbackfriday

Flashback Friday: That time two of my grandchildren spent the night and I became an old softy.

Two of our grandchildren spent the night at our house last night. At some point in the evening, I suddenly realized that an alien had taken over my brain. Either that, or I’d developed late-onset multiple personality disorder.

On one occasion, we were watching the movie the kids had requested, but instead of sitting quietly and watching, they were both bouncing around, playing with Mazie, our toy Schnauzer, and engaging in general shenanigans. If they’d been my kids, I’d have simply shut off the television and made it perfectly clear that it was not coming back on, ever, maybe. Instead, I did nothing. Eventually, they calmed down. See? It’s no big deal.

On another occasion, my 5-year-old grandson refused to drink the orange juice he had requested as his breakfast drink. (I should also disclose that I fixed the kids pancakes with butter, maple syrup, whipped cream and chocolate syrup – a decadent and less than wholesome concoction I’d have never let my own kids talk me into.) I just looked at him and said something completely ineffectual, like, "Oh, that’s not nice." My wife, on the other hand, sat him down with his juice and told him he couldn’t get up until he had finished it. Three minutes later, he was handing me an empty glass. No question about it, she did the right thing.

And not only did I ignore their misbehavior (they’re actually very well-behaved, but they are kids), I became a complete pushover. When our grandson asked for chocolate syrup on his pancakes, my wife said "No, you have enough stuff on your pancakes" at the same time I said, "Okay, I’ll get it." And I did. (Willie didn’t really mind.) When Willie announced that she’d bought chocolate ice cream for dessert, our 9-year-old granddaughter very politely said she preferred cookies-and-cream ice cream. Less than two minutes later, I was in the car, headed for the grocery store, grandson in tow. When we got there, he began telling me he would like whipped cream on his ice cream, and chocolate sauce, and wanted to wash it all down with chocolate milk. I did buy the organic chocolate milk. Does that redeem me?

At some point in the evening, I asked myself, "Am I the same John Rosemond, draconian parenting expert, who is relied upon by thousands of parents seeking to raise children who have accepted that the world is not a bowl of cherries by the time they go to kindergarten?" The "Say Nine No’s for Every Yes" guy? What’s happening to me?

And then, the epiphany: I suddenly understood, completely, why divorced fathers turn into "Disneyland Dads" on the relatively infrequent occasions they get to be with their kids. Why their kids come back to their mothers with armloads of stuff the moms disapprove of and needing full blood replacement because all they’ve eaten for three days is high-carb junk food. Why these custodial moms complain, rightly, that their exes don’t support their rules.

It’s quite simple: When one is able to spend one-on-one time with his or her children or grandchildren only every so often, one wants to create nothing but positive memories.

I’m already thinking of how I can create even better memories the next time they spend the night. Hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, anyone?

Posted from the John Rosemond Facebook page

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Religious Liberty Protection Kit – Students and Teachers

Why Students and Teachers Need to Know Their Religious Rights ß (Click the link for more info)

“Knowledge of your 
rights breeds confidence.”

Students and teachers often don’t practice their faith in public schools because they believe it is illegal to do so. Others fear opposition within the schools and by activist legal groups.

This is tragic and unnecessary. U.S. Supreme Court decisions and other laws grant broad religious liberty rights to students and teachers in public school. It’s also tragic because religious influence is needed more than ever. Crime and suicide rates are rising in our schools while academic scores and career readiness are falling.

The information in this Religious Liberty Protection Kit addresses these problems. Knowledge of your rights—and the fact that lawyers are available to protect your rights—breeds confidence. It can empower students and teachers to exercise faith without fear.

Imagine what that could mean. Imagine an America where public school students do routinely pray, read Scripture, and openly express their faith in schools without fear of opposition by school authorities. Imagine an America where public schools do protect faith as a daily, positive aspect of student life. Imagine public schools where vibrant religious influence—spread from student to student—dramatically cuts the rates of drug abuse, crime, out-of-wedlock births, suicide, and falling academic scores and decisively begins to restore moral order.

Students’ lives can change as religious liberty and religious influence spreads. Schools can change for the better if they will accept, and even embrace, freedom of religious expression. Communities and society can improve as fewer students are trapped in destructive behavior and more graduate to contribute to our free society.

In short, religious freedom in education can change America, countering the current moral erosion and creating a brighter future for the coming generation.

QUICK START:
25 Surprising Facts About
Religious Rights in Public Schools

1. Students and educators do have First Amendment religious rights inside public schools.
2. Students can speak about their faith even when teachers must be neutral.
3. Schools cannot treat religious activity differently than other activity.
4. Students can pray during lunch, recess, or other designated free time.
5. Students can pray silently during a school’s moment of silence.
6. Students can read the Bible or other religious materials at school.
7. Students can share their faith with fellow students.
8. Schools can acknowledge religion.
9. Students can pray, either individually or as a group, at school athletic competitions, student assemblies, or other extracurricular activities when school officials are not involved.
10. In many cases, a school district can allow student-led prayer before an athletic competition (such as a football game), a student assembly, or other extracurricular event as part of the school program.
11. Students can pray at graduation ceremonies or include religious content in their speeches.
12. A public school can refer to “Christmas” and have a “Christmas party” if the intent is not to advance Christianity.
13. A public school can display Christmas decorations if the intent is to teach and not part of a religious exercise.
14. A public school can include religious Christmas music, art, or drama in a school play or performance if it is used to teach history or cultural heritage and not advance a particular religion.
15. Students can give out Christmas gifts with religious messages at school parties.
16. Students can incorporate their faith or religion 
in classroom and homework assignments under normal and appropriate circumstances.
17. A public school district cannot be hostile toward religious beliefs.
18. Teachers and other public school employees can discuss religion with students under many conditions.
19. Teachers and other public school employees can discuss religion with other teachers or other school employees.
20. A public school or a teacher cannot limit religious speech by students unless they limit other speech.
21. Students can have a religious club at their school.
22. Religious student groups can meet on campus whenever other non-curricular clubs can meet.
23. Religious clubs can use the same school resources available to non-religious clubs (e.g., school facilities, bulletin boards, public address system) to promote or facilitate club events.
24. In most states, teachers or other public school employees may attend a religious student group’s meetings in a supervisory role.
25. Members of religious student clubs can distribute flyers about meetings and events just like non-religious clubs.

Students’ Complete Guide to Religious Rights in Public School

Almost fifty years ago, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that neither teachers nor students “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The following is a summary of the legal situation today regarding religious rights beyond the schoolhouse gate.

General Principles

It is well established that students have First Amendment rights in public schools. Because public schools are dedicated places for learning, however, courts apply students[1]’ rights differently than in other contexts.

There is an important distinction between government speech (the speech of the school district and its employees) and private student speech. Although there are some limits that apply to government speech, the Constitution fully protects a student[2]’s private religious expression.[3]

The First Amendment prohibits a school district and its employees from being hostile toward religious beliefs and expression. The proper role of a school district is to remain neutral and accommodating toward private religious beliefs. Unlike the government, students may promote specific religious beliefs or practices.[4] [5]

As one U.S. Court of Appeals observed, the Constitution “does not permit [a public school] to confine religious speech to whispers or banish it to broom closets. If it did, the exercise of one’s religion would not be free at all.”[6]

Prayer, Scripture Reading, and Discussion of Religion During Non-Instructional Time

Public schools must treat religious expression such as prayer, reading the Bible, and religious discussion the same way they treat similar nonreligious expression.[7]

Can students pray during lunch, recess, or other designated free time?

Yes, the First Amendment grants students the right to pray during non-instructional time, such as lunch, recess, or other designated free time, to the same extent that the school allows students to engage in nonreligious activities. In other words, the school must treat religious expression, such as prayer, in the same way that it treats similar nonreligious expression.

The U.S. Supreme Court stated that “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day.” [8]

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education guidelines provide:

“Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the education program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities. Among other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other non-instructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.”[9]

As long as the prayer is student-initiated and not substantially disruptive to the school environment, schools may not restrict or punish students for praying or expressing their faith, even in front of non-believers. This means that if a school district allows students to converse with each other about any topic during lunch, recess, or free time, it has to allow students to pray, as long as the prayers are not disruptive.[10] [11]

Can students silently pray during a school’s moment of silence?

Yes, if the school has a moment of silence, students are allowed to silently pray, just as they may engage in any other silent activity. Teachers are prohibited from discouraging students from praying during this time.[12]

Can students read religious materials at school?

Yes, during non-instructional time, students can read the Bible or other religious materials to the same extent that the school allows students to read similar nonreligious materials. The First Amendment prohibits schools from treating religious materials differently from nonreligious materials, as long as the materials do not create a substantial disruption.[13]

For example, if schools allow students to bring books from home to read during free time, then the school cannot prevent students from bringing religious material such as a Bible or scriptures of other faiths and reading these during free time. In the same way, if a school allows students to bring car magazines to class to read, then students can also bring religious magazines.

Can students verbally share their faith with fellow students?

Yes, if a school allows students to freely converse with each other about various topics during non-instructional time, then students can also share their faith verbally with fellow students.[14] In other words, if a school allows students to talk to each other in between classes, at recess, during lunch, or other non-class times, the school cannot specifically prohibit students from speaking to each other about religion and faith.

For example, if a school allows students to speak about sports, movies, or friendships during non-instructional time, the school cannot restrict students from also talking about their faith with others, as long as it is not substantially disruptive.

Student Religious Expression in Class Assignments

Students can express their faith in school assignments such as homework, projects, or artwork. The U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines state:

Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Thus, if a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards (such as literary quality) and neither penalized nor rewarded on account of its religious content. [15]

To further illustrate, if a teacher instructed students to draw pictures about the “winter season,” a student could draw a picture of the birth of Jesus as part of the Christmas tradition in the same way that a student could draw a picture of a snowman. The First Amendment forbids a teacher from giving a student who incorporates religion into her assignment a lower grade based on the religious viewpoint expressed.

Although schools cannot discriminate against religious expression, they can require that the religious expression is related to the topic assigned, that the assignment reflects the student’s own work, and that the student has followed the specific directions of the assignment.[16] For example, if the class assignment is to write about the Constitution and a student writes about the Bible instead, the student can be penalized for not following the directions of the assignment. It is important to note that student expression in class assignments is different from school-sponsored publications (such as school newspapers), theatrical productions, or other school-sponsored activities that the school district promotes and that appear to be the speech of the school district itself. [17]

Student Religious Speech at
Athletic Competitions, Student Assemblies,
and Other Extracurricular Events

Can students pray, either individually or as a group, at a school athletic competition (such as a football game), student assembly, or other extracurricular activity when school officials (teachers or administrators) are not involved?

Yes, if the students are voluntarily praying without any involvement by a school official (teacher, administrator, etc.), then the First Amendment protects the students’ prayers to the same extent that the school allows other speech to occur. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day.”[18]

For example, if members of a football team are allowed to talk to one another about any subject prior to a game, then the school is prohibited from discriminating against students who wish to engage in religious speech or pray together during this time. The school cannot treat conversations about religion differently than conversations about movies, friendships, or any other similar nonreligious speech.[19]

Can a school district allow student-led prayer before an athletic competition (such as a football game), a student assembly, or other extracurricular event as part of the school program?

Yes, students can pray or speak about religion when a school has policies in place that allow students to speak, the policies are neutral toward religion (by neither encouraging nor discouraging religious speech or prayer), the school does not control the content of the student speech, and it is clear that the speech is the students’ and not the school’s.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines:

Student speakers at student assemblies and extracurricular activities such as sporting events may not be selected on a basis that either favors or disfavors religious speech. Where student speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, that expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or antireligious) content. By contrast, where school officials determine or substantially control the content of what is expressed, such speech is attributable to the school and may not include prayer or other specifically religious (or antireligious) content. To avoid any mistaken perception that a school endorses student speech that is not in fact attributable to the school, school officials may make appropriate, neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech (whether religious or nonreligious) is the speaker’s and not the school’s. [20]

For example, if a school allows a student speaker to deliver “opening remarks” before each athletic competition, and the student speaker is chosen by neutral criteria (such as a position in student council, a position on the athletic team, or is selected randomly), and the school does not control the speech of the student, then the student speaker can discuss religion, pray, or engage in any other speech during this time because his or her speech is constitutionally protected, private speech. Additionally, under these policies, the First Amendment prohibits the school from disallowing a student from engaging in religious expression since the speech is private religious speech.

It is important to note that “the First Amendment permits public school officials to review student speeches for vulgarity, lewdness, or sexually explicit language. Without more, however, such review does not make student speech attributable to the state.”[21] This means that a school official can review a student’s speech for vulgarity, lewdness, or sexually explicit language and the speech can still remain private, constitutionally protected expression.

Student Religious Speech
at Graduation Ceremonies

Students can include religious content, including prayer, in their graduation speeches so long as the students were selected by religiously-neutral criteria (e.g., valedictorian and salutatorian are selected by grade point average, class officers are selected by a student body vote) and the control
over the content of each address is left to the students, and not the school.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines:

School officials may not mandate or organize prayer at graduation or select speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech such as prayer. Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, however, that expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or antireligious) content. To avoid any mistaken perception that a school endorses student or other private speech that is not in fact attributable to the school, school officials may make appropriate, neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech (whether religious or nonreligious) is the speaker’s and not the school’s.[22]

For example, if the school district allows the valedictorian, salutatorian, class president, and class vice president to each speak for a certain amount of time, and the students have control over the content of their speeches, then the school cannot discriminate against students who wish to incorporate religious speech, including prayer, in their addresses.

Please note, however, that a few courts have deviated from this generally accepted rule regarding the permissibility of religious content in graduation speeches. In one case, the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) determined that when school officials exercise complete control over a graduation ceremony, including student speech, that the school officials may remove proselytizing and sectarian language from a student’s graduation speech. The court determined that an objective observer would perceive the speech to be approved and endorsed by the school, and, therefore, the school could remove the proselytizing comments to avoid an Establishment Clause violation.[23]

The Ninth Circuit, however, in a different case did not require school officials to eliminate all references to God in a student’s graduation speech. After removing the proselytizing comments, the student was allowed to make[24] “references to God as they related to [the student’s] own beliefs.”[25] The student also distributed unedited copies of his graduation speech just outside of the graduation site, and at graduation, the student announced the time and place where he would deliver the unedited version of his speech.[26]

The Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) upheld a school district’s policy that permitted “graduating students to decide through a vote whether to have an unrestricted student graduation message at the beginning and/or closing of graduation ceremonies.”[27] The policy did not refer to any religious speech. If the students voted to have a classmate deliver a speech, the classmate’s speech would not be reviewed or edited by school officials; therefore, the speech was private student speech, and the message was allowed regardless of the religious content.[28]

Christmas in the Public Schools

Can a school refer to “Christmas” and have a “Christmas party,” or must the school have only “holidays” and “holiday parties”?

Christmas is perfectly fine, so long as the school is not celebrating Christmas for the purpose of furthering Christianity. A federal court held that a public school is allowed to celebrate Christmas (and other holidays with both religious and secular aspects) because doing so serves the educational goal of advancing students’ knowledge and appreciation of the role that America’s religious heritage has played in the social, cultural, and historical development of civilization. While public schools may celebrate Christmas, they do not have to;[29] “holiday parties” are legally acceptable as well.[30]

Can a public school display Christmas decorations?

Yes, a school district may include the temporary use of decorations and symbols to demonstrate the cultural and religious heritage of the Christmas holiday. In this way, the decorations and symbols are a teaching aid and resource, and not part of a religious exercise.[31]

In a different context, the Supreme Court allowed the display of a Nativity scene, which depicts the historical origins of the Christmas holiday, when the religious display was next to many secular symbols, including Santa Claus, a reindeer, lights, candy-striped poles, carolers, and a teddy bear.[32]

Can a school include religious Christmas music, art, or drama in a school play or performance?

Yes, so long as the religious music, art, or drama is presented in an objective manner as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of Christmas. In fact, a federal court has held that to allow students only to study and not to participate in religious art, literature, and music, when such works have developed an independent secular and artistic significance, would give students a truncated view of our culture.[33]

Federal courts have also affirmed that choirs can sing both religious and secular songs, as long as the religious songs are not part of a religious exercise. One court stated that if the music curriculum is designed to cover the full array of vocal music, the inclusion of religious songs is to be expected. Another court, recognizing that most choral music is religious, stated that preventing public schools from including religious songs would demonstrate an unlawful animosity toward religion.[34] [35] [36]

Can students give out Christmas gifts with religious messages at school parties?

If students are allowed to distribute gifts at a school party, then the students may not be prohibited from giving out their gifts just because the gift includes a religious message.[37] Please note, however, that a few courts have deviated from this generally accepted rule in cases involving student religious expression in class assignments when younger students, such as kindergarten and first grade students, are involved. Some federal appeals courts in the Third Circuit, which consists of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and in the Sixth Circuit, which consists of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, have granted more discretion to schools in these situations depending on the particular facts. If this situation arises, please contact First Liberty for further analysis and guidance.

Can students express their faith in classroom and homework assignments?

Yes. The First Amendment protects a student’s private work and the school may not prevent students from expressing their faith in their assignments. See “Student Religious Expression in Class Assignments” above for the U.S. Department of Education policy. Applying this policy to the holiday season, if a teacher instructs the students to write a story about the winter season, students may write about Christmas or Hanukkah as much as they may write about sledding or ice skating.

Can teachers and other school employees discuss religion?

During instructional time, teachers and other school employees are acting in their official capacities and must remain neutral toward religion. As stated above, school district employees can discuss the historical and cultural role of religion as part of a secular program of education.

Teachers and other school employees can only promote religion when not acting in their official capacities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, teachers may “take part in religious activities where the overall context makes clear that they are not participating in their official capacities. Before school or during lunch, for example, teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activities.”[38]

Similarly, outside of the school day, school officials are allowed to participate in private religious events, such as Christmas parties, in their personal capacities. This is even true when the private religious event takes place on school grounds before or after school hours. For example, if a church group rents out a classroom after school hours for a Christmas party, the teacher may attend, just like any other private citizen.[39] [40]

1. Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969) (“It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”); Morgan v. Swanson, 659 F.3d 359 (5th Cir. 2011) (en banc).
2. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 302 (2000) (“[T]here is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”) (internal quotations omitted).
3. See Capitol Square Review & Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, 515 U.S. 753, 760 (1995) (“Our precedent establishes that private religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression.”).
4. Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673 (1984) (“Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”).
5. See Pinette, 515 U.S. at 760.
6. Chandler v. Siegelman, 230 F.3d 1313, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added).
7. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html; see also Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 845-46 (1995).
8. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist., 530 U.S. at 313 (holding that although it is unconstitutional for the government to “affirmatively sponsor[] the particular religious practice of prayer” that the Constitution protects the right of students to engage in voluntary prayer). See also Chandler, 230 F.3d at 1317.
9. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html (emphasis added).
10. Tinker, 393 U.S. at 511.
11. Chandler, 230 F.3d at 1317.
12. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html.
13. Id.
14. Id.; see also Morgan, 659 F.3d at 412 (“[W]hat one child says to another child is within the protection of the First Amendment”).
15. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html.
16. See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 828-29, 845-46 (1995); Lamb’s Chapel v. Ctr. Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist., 508 U.S. 384, 393-94 (1993); Morgan, 695 F.3d at 401-02.
17. Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, 270-271 (1988).
18. Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist., 530 U.S. at 313 (holding that although it is unconstitutional for the government to “affirmatively sponsor[] the particular religious practice of prayer” that the Constitution protects the right of students to engage in voluntary prayer). See also Chandler v. Siegelman, 230 F.3d 1313, 1317 (11th Cir. 2000).
19. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html; see also Morgan, 659 F.3d at 412 (“[W]hat one child says to another child is within the protection of the First Amendment”).
20. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html (emphasis added).
21. Id.
22. U.S. Dept. of Educ., Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html (emphasis added).
23. Cole v. Oroville Union High Sch., 228 F.3d 1092, 1103–05 (9th Cir. 2000).
24. Lassonde v. Pleasanton Unified Sch. Dist., 320 F.3d 979, 981–82 (9th Cir. 2003).
25. Id. at 981.
26. Id. at 981–82, 985.
27. Adler v. Duval Cnty. Sch. Bd., 250 F.3d 1330, 1334, 1342 (11th Cir. 2001).
28. Id. at 1332, 1342.
29. Florey v. Sioux Falls Sch. Dist., 619 F.2d 1311, 1314 (8th Cir. 1980).
30. Stratechuk v. Bd. of Educ., 587 F.3d 597, 610 (3rd Cir. 2009).
31. Florey, 619 F.2d at 1314.
32. Lynch, 465 U.S. at 671-72.
33. Florey, 619 F.2d at 1316.
34. Bauchman v. West High Sch., 132 F.3d 542 (10th Cir. 1997); Doe v. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 70 F.3d 402 (5th Cir. 1995).
35. Bauchman, 132 F.3d. at 554.
36. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 70 F.3d at 407-08.
37. Morgan, 659 F.3d at 410, 412.
38. Id.
39. Id.
40. Wigg v. Sioux Falls Sch. Dist. 49-5, 382 F.3d 807, 815 (8th Cir. 2004) (holding that a teacher may participate in a religious, after-school program on school grounds in her capacity as a private citizen).

Teachers’ Complete Guide to Religious Rights in Public School

Can a teacher express his or her faith during the workday and in public forums?

Short Answer:
For the most part, yes, you have a right to express your faith during these times.

Legal Answer:
The Supreme Court of the United States clearly articulated that “First Amendment rights, applied in light of special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years.”[1]

Teachers and administrators engaging in non-disruptive religious expression[2] unrelated to the scope of their official duties and professional capacity, and generally not in the presence of students[3], are protected by the First Amendment.[4] For example, a school cannot create a sweeping policy to prohibit all written or oral religious advocacy among its employees[5], or retaliate against a teacher for writing a religious-based letter to the local newspaper[6], or prohibit employees from wearing religious jewelry[7];

Case Precedent:
1. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).
2. Johnson v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., 658 F.3d 954, 966 (9th Cir. 2011); Tucker v. State of California Dept. of Educ., 97 F.3d 1204, 1210 (9th Cir. 1996).
3. See Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 533 U.S. 98 (2001) (“We have said that a state interest in avoiding anEstablishment Clause violation ‘may be characterized as compelling,’ and therefore may justify content-based discrimination.”) (citation omitted); Johnson v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., 658 F.3d 954, 967-68 (9th Cir. 2011); Roberts v. Madigan, 921 F.2d 1047, 1056-58 (10th Cir. 1990) (upholding school policy prohibiting teacher from placing Bible on his desk, reading Bible during silent reading period, and stocking two Christian books on shelves, because together they might give students the impression of state endorsement of religion); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 522 (9thCir. 1994) (upholding school policy prohibiting teacher from speaking with students about religion any time the students are on campus, including lunch break and the time before, between, and after classes); but see Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District 49-5, 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004) (holding that a teacher’s participation in an after-school religious club is protected free speech and does not violate the Establishment Clause).
4. Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 418-22 (2006).
5. Tucker v. State of California Dept. of Educ., 97 F.3d 1204 (9th Cir. 1996).
6. See Pickering v. Bd. of Educ. of Twp. High Sch. Dist. 205, Will Cnty., Ill., 391 U.S. 563, 572-73 (1968)(striking down school’s firing of a teacher for writing newspaper editorial criticizing the Board of Education’s allocation of funds); but see Dixon v. Univ. of Toledo, 842 F.Supp.2d 1044, 1049-53 (N.D. Ohio 2012) (upholding university decision to fire Associate VP for Human Resources for writing newspaper editorial referencing her religious views on homosexuality, based on her policy-related position, “speculative” damage that might occur to the university, and a “presumptive insubordination” rule based on her speech conflicting with the position of the school).
7. Nichol v. Arin Intermediate Unit 28, 268 F. Supp. 2d 536 (W.D. Penn. 2003); but seeBerry v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 447 F.3d 642, 652 (9th Cir. 2006) (upholding government agency’s policy prohibiting the display of religious items in employee’s cubicle because clients might reasonably interpret them as government endorsement of religion).

Can an employer discriminate against a teacher based on religion?

Short Answer:
No, your employer cannot discriminate against you.

Legal Answer:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that “it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . . .”

Under this law, your employer cannot take any negative action against you because you are religious. Specifically, if other teachers are allowed to discuss various topics in the employee-only areas of the school, a school official cannot reprimand you for speaking about your faith there, unless it proves disruptive to the operation of the school. If teachers are allowed to wear jewelry, then you have a right to wear a cross to school without being required to hide it.

Case Precedent:
Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 703 (a)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 418–22 (2006); Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U.S. 378, 388 (1987).
Nichol v. Arin Intermediate Unit 28, 268 F. Supp. 2d 536 (W.D. Penn. 2003).

Must an employer accommodate a teacher’s religious faith?

Short Answer:
Yes, your employer must accommodate your faith.

Legal Answer:
Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious practices. In order to fall under the protection of Title VII, an employee must: (1) hold a sincere religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) inform the employer about the conflict; and (3) be discharged, disciplined, or subjected to discriminatory treatment for failure to comply with the conflicting employment requirement.[1]

If your religious beliefs require you to share your faith with those around you or abstain from working certain days of the week, you are free to responsibly practice your beliefs without discrimination by your employer. If your employer has a policy that prohibits such religious practices, you should inform your employer of your sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the policy. An employer must take steps to reasonably accommodate your religious needs. [2]

However, your employer is not required to accommodate your religious needs if doing so would be an undue hardship.[3] Undue hardship must be more than a mere inconvenience. Furthermore, schools may not attempt to hide behind “neutral rules”; employers must actively seek to accommodate an employee’s religious needs.[4] Because every situation is unique, it is important to contact First Liberty regarding the type of accommodation you should expect from your employer.

Case Precedent:
1. Dixon v. The Hallmark Cos., Inc., 627 F.3d 849, 855 (11th Cir. 2010); Heller v. EBB Auto Co., 8 F.3d 1433, 1438 (9th Cir. 1993); Smith v. Pyro Mining, 827 F.2d 1081, 1085 (6th Cir. 1987); Turpen v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co., 736 F.2d 1022, 1026 (5th Cir. 1984).
2. Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701(j), 42 U.S.C § 2000e(j); Sanchez-Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc., 673 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2012).
3. Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977); 29 C.F.R. § 1605.2(c); Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 390 F.3d 126, 137 (1st Cir. 2004); Daniels v. City of Arlington, 246 F.3d 500 (5th Cir. 2001); Wilson v. U.S. West Commc’ns, 58 F.3d 1337, 1342 n.3 (8th Cir.1995).
4. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 431 (1971) (“The Act proscribes not only overt discrimination, but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation”); Riley v. Bendix Corp., 464 F.2d 1113, 1115 (5th Cir. 1972).

Is a teacher protected from harassment from co-workers and supervisors based on his/her religious beliefs?

Short Answer:
Yes, you have the right to be free from harassment because of your religious beliefs.

Legal Answer:
Not only must your employer accommodate your religious needs, your employer must also take steps to protect you from harassment for your religious beliefs and practice. First, just as discussed before, your employer must take steps to accommodate your religious needs, including protecting you from harassment by co-workers and supervisors because of your religion. Second, your employer must also protect you from a hostile work environment.[1] The Supreme Court described a hostile work environment as one in which “the workplace is permeated with ‘discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,’ that is ‘sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.’”[2] Not only must you believe the environment is abusive, it must also be objectively abusive, such that a reasonable person in your position would also find it abusive.[3] This requires more than “the run-of-the-mill boorish, juvenile, or annoying behavior that is not uncommon in American workplaces”[4] or “simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents
(unless extremely serious).”[5]

Because this is a fact-intensive determination and all the circumstances must be considered,
no precise test is available to determine whether an environment is “hostile” or “abusive.”[6] Therefore, please contact First Liberty regarding whether your work environment is sufficiently abusive to constitute a hostile work environment.

Case Precedent:
1. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 116 (2002).
2. Id. (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993)); Morris v. City of Colo. Springs, 666 F.3d 654, 664 (10th Cir. 2012).
3. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., 523 U.S. 75 (1998); Morris v. City of Colo. Springs, 666 F.3d 654, 664 (10th Cir. 2012); EEOC v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., 521 F.3d 306, 315 (4th Cir. 2008).
4. Morris v. City of Colo. Springs, 666 F.3d 654, 664 (10th Cir. 2012).
5. Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788 (1998).
6. Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 22-23 (1993); Hernandez v. V alley View Hosp. Ass’n, 684 F.3d 950, 957-58 (10th Cir. 2012).

Can a teacher hold employee prayer groups or Bible studies on campus?

Short Answer:
Generally, yes, you have a right to hold employee religious meetings on campus.

Legal Answer:
If the school allows teachers to meet during non-instructional time in school facilities for various social purposes, such as meeting for social organizations or conversations on any topic, then the school is prohibited from barring the use of school facilities for employee-only prayer groups during non-instructional time.[1]However, if the school policy prohibits all “non-business related activity” in a particular room and does not use the room for multiple purposes, it can probably exclude employee prayer groups from that room.[2] According to the Department of Education, “before school or during lunch, for example, teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activity.”[3] Likewise, if the school allows outside groups or individuals to use school facilities for meetings, then the school must give teachers the same access to school facilities for Bible study.[4]

Case Precedent:
1. Compare Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 533 U.S. 98 (2001) (where school opens facilities for “variety of purposes” then it cannot prohibit use by a person or organization for religious purposes), with Berry v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 447 F.3d 642, 654 (9th Cir.2006) (where Department of Social Services does not open particular room for “multiple purposes” but only for business-related purposes, it can prohibit its use for employee prayer meetings).
2. Berry v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.,447 F.3d 642, 654 (9th Cir.2006).
3. “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” U.S. Department of Education (Feb. 7, 2003)– http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html; see also http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/significant-guidance.html.
4. Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 533 U.S. 98 (2001); Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist., 508 U.S. 384 (1993).

Can a teacher participate in baccalaureate ceremonies?

Short Answer:
Yes, you have a right to participate in these ceremonies.

Legal Answer:
Educators have the right to attend and participate in their personal capacities in privately sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies. The Department of Education issued specific guidelines making this clear to all school district in the United States.[1]

Case Precedent:
[1] “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” U.S. Department of Education (Feb. 7, 2003)– http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html; see also http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/significant-guidance.html.

If a public school censors or prohibits your religious speech, expression or practice, and you are unsure if the public school’s actions violate your First Amendment freedoms, contact First Liberty at:
FirstLiberty.org/request-legal-help

Top Lawyers Will Defend You

“Schools that violate
religious rights often quickly
back down.”

Knowing your rights is one thing. Standing up for them is another. Thankfully, you can do both.

Across America, students and teachers of faith are asserting their rights against the baseless challenges of uninformed authorities, and these students and teachers are winning. Most frequently, the victories come without court action. Since the law is clear, schools that violate religious rights often quickly back down in the face of an explanatory letter from a knowledgeable attorney.

Liz Loverde was told she couldn’t have a Bible club in her high school. Giovanni Rubeo was told he couldn’t read his Bible in class. MacKenzie Fraiser was told she couldn’t include a Bible verse in an assignment. Angela Hildenbrand was told she couldn’t include God in her graduation ceremony. These public school students all successfully defended their rights, and they are just the tip of a growing iceberg made up of students and teachers who found top-ranked lawyers—at no cost—to represent them.

First Liberty is the nation’s largest legal organization in the nation dedicated solely to defending and restoring religious liberty in America. First Liberty has more than a 90 percent win rate, and has won at every court level

First Liberty employs top-rated staff attorneys, each of whom can coordinate top national volunteer litigators from 24 of the largest 50 law firms from every area of America and every key legal specialization. Volunteer litigators include:

Former U.S. Supreme Clerks

Former Solicitor Generals of the United States

Former White House legal and policy advisors

A former U.S. Special Prosecutor

Former state Solicitors General

Attorneys defend religious liberty pro bono (at no charge).

As an expert in religious liberty in the public schools, First Liberty has:

Overturned a ban on graduation prayer—and a judge’s threat to jail students for mentioning God in their graduation speeches (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals)

Ended bans on public school Bible clubs (multiple schools districts and states)

Stopped bans on Bible reading, religious expression, and prayer in schools (multiple schools districts and states)

Reversed incidents of religious discrimination in colleges (multiple states)

Won at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for a teacher (federal EEOC)

Reversed a ban on Bible verses on high school cheerleader’s run-through banners (State District Court)

Reversed a ban on teachers and students displaying Christmas cards

Reversed a ban on students sharing Christmas gifts with religious messages (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals)

Reversed a ban on using Bible verses in class assignments (multiple states)

If you believe your religious rights have been violated, contact First Liberty at 972.941.4444, legalrequests@FirstLiberty.org, or FirstLiberty.org. Standing for your rights not only helps you, but strengthens your community and our society because religious influence is such a vital part of 
a free, strong America.

How Religion in School is Good for America

“Dramatic connections
between upward mobility and
religious activity were found”

The future of a free, civil America depends upon religious activity. From the beginning of our nation, America’s Founders asserted that a free, orderly, healthy republic would depend on religious activity—and thus religious freedom.

Modern social science confirms that critical measures of social health and freedom depend on religious activity. Prominent researcher Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., states, “A steadily growing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that regular religious practice benefits individuals families, and communities, and thus the nation as a whole.”

This is especially “mission-critical” in public education. Ninety percent of families send their children to public schools: roughly 60 million children who are the future of America. Numerous peer-reviewed studies demonstrate that more religious activity among young people is associated with less pre-marital sex, out-of-wedlock birth, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, suicide, and academic failure—whereas less religious activity correlates to increases in such destructive trends. In Fagan’s extensive analysis of recent studies, he found:

“Academic expectations, level of education attained, school attendance, and academic performance are all positively affected by religious practice. In two literature reviews conducted by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin . . . math and reading scores correlated positively with more frequent religious practice.”

Dramatic connections between upward mobility and religious activity were found in low-income and minority communities—and even for children living in broken homes. Public education is in crisis, and students and teachers are deprived of vital religious activity that is proven to help. Study after study documents the decline of American public education: Spending per student has skyrocketed, yet academic scores have fallen while crime, suicide, and other crippling trends have risen. And the documented “mission-critical” factor of religious activity—such as prayer, Bible reading, and open religious expression—has declined in public schools.

Expelling religious activity from school is devastating because school is the dominant force in students’ lives. Students who go to church spend 30–60 hours per week in school or doing school-related activity, compared to only 1–3 hours in church. Church alone is not enough. If religious activity is banned from school, it will simply not exert the positive influence on church-going students it could; and none on unchurched students who otherwise might benefit. Further, it sends the signal that religion is a small, irrelevant “compartment” of life—not part of the “more important” “real world” of secularized school.

Most tragically, beneficial and legal religious activity has been expelled because of the widely held myth that courts have found it illegal. An annual study led by a Harvard-trained attorney for First Liberty found instances of unnecessary discrimination against religious activity in public schools nationwide. Constitutional attorneys at First Liberty have found more than 20 religious activities that are legal in school—yet too often banned because of the misperception that all or most religious activity is unconstitutional if done in public schools.

In response, First Liberty counters this misperception among students, parents and educators, including by winning legal matters where students’ rights are unlawfully challenged and then using these victories to widely educate other Americans about religious freedom in schools.

The goal is an America where faith is welcomed back into education, and our society as a whole reaps the benefits.

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