A Loudoun County Public Schools teacher was banned from including a Bible verse in her email signature in what one legal group calls a First Amendment violation.
The unnamed teacher’s email signature included John 3:16 before the acting superintendent, Daniel Smith, requested it be removed. The teacher offered an alternative verse, Proverbs 22:6, but her request was denied on the same grounds: it was from the Bible.
On Mar. 23, Liberty Counsel sent a letter to Smith on behalf of the teacher, calling the ban discriminative and a “violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and District policy.”
According to the letter, LCPS doesn’t have a written policy addressing teachers’ email signatures, but permits teachers to customize their signatures with preferred pronouns, quotes, slogans, or photos that reflect their personal beliefs – apparently with the exception of Christian beliefs.
In its defense, LCPS claims the Bible verse goes against the Establishment Clause:
“Pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the school division requires us to refrain from any communication that could be perceived as the school division’s official endorsement of any particular religion. The verse in your signature blocks falls in that requirement.”
According to Liberty Counsel, the district’s claim contradicts the teacher’s First Amendment right to free speech and the freedom to practice religion openly.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said the school could prohibit teachers from expressing their beliefs in their signatures or treat all teachers equally, regardless of religion.
“Loudoun County Public Schools cannot discriminate against a teacher who wants to use a Bible verse in her signature when other teachers are including nonreligious quotes,” Staver said in a statement.
It is unclear whether the teacher will take further legal action against the school.