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Federal judge tosses bulk of Christian teacher's lawsuit

By The Associated Press
05.02.05

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has dismissed the bulk of a lawsuit brought by a fifth-grade teacher who claims his lesson plan is being censored by his superiors because he is a Christian.

Stephen Williams, who teaches at Stevens Creek Elementary School in Cupertino, filed suit in November claiming Principal Patricia Vidmar and other officials illegally restricted his teachings, which included presenting historical documents referencing God.

U.S. District Judge James Ware, in dismissing much of Williams’ suit on April 28, said Williams’ speech rights were not restricted because “teachers do not have a First Amendment right to determine what curriculum will be taught in the classroom.”

But the judge kept the part of the suit alive in which Williams claims that because he is an avowed Christian, the principal is censoring and reviewing his supplemental teaching material while not doing the same for other teachers.

Ware let that argument go forward in the preliminary stages of the case, based solely on the allegation without considering the school’s defense: that the content of his materials and complaints from parents, not his religion, prompted the school to single him out.

Ware said it was too early in the case to entertain that defense.

Among the banned documents, the suit says, were religious excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, various state constitutions and writings by George Washington, John Adams and William Penn.

The principal also banned a document Williams created called “What Great Leaders Have Said About The Bible.” It quotes Jesus Christ and nine U.S. presidents.

Administrators said the materials are inappropriate for elementary school students.

The case is Williams v. Vidmar, 04-04946.


Update
California teacher, district settle religion lawsuit
Fifth-grade teacher in Cupertino had sued school for restricting his use of religious-themed historical documents in class. 08.15.05

Previous
Flashpoint: religious materials in class
Christian teacher in Cupertino, Calif., public school files federal lawsuit alleging discrimination after being ordered to stop handing out religious documents in classroom. 02.02.05

Related

Curriculum fights put schoolchildren in culture-war crossfire

Parents, teachers, school boards are squabbling over what kids should learn about sex, evolution and religion's role in U.S. history. 02.04.05

County worker has no right to preach at work, 9th Circuit rules
Panel finds officials walked fine line to protect religious rights and to keep government from appearing to support religion. 05.02.06

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