EdNews Virginia | April 6, 2023
Liberty Counsel — a Christian ministry that engages in strategic litigation — sent a demand letter to Loudoun County Public Schools on behalf of a high school teacher, defending her right to include a Bible verse in her email signature block.
School officials instructed the educator to remove the famous verse from the Book of John: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The high school teacher offered a compromise verse from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Officials rejected the alternative verse because it was from the Bible. Notably, the school district allows educators to include “pronouns” and quotations from other sources. This double-standard is a form of unconstitutional discrimination, Liberty Counsel wrote to Loudoun schools chief Daniel Smith.
We urge the Loudoun County Public Schools to update its policies and practices to conform to current Supreme Court precedent; and not discriminate against teachers based on religious viewpoint. LCPS may certainly prohibit all private expression in email signature blocks (an unnecessary and unfortunate decision) or it may promulgate a constitutional email signature block policy that treats private religious and secular expression equally. Such a policy could require a disclaimer that “LCPS permits private expression within email signature blocks that is solely the expression of the author and is not necessarily attributable to LCPS.” Please be advised that personal “pronouns” in email signature blocks remain private secular expression, which will support a cause of action if teacher personal religious expression is proscribed and teacher personal “pronouns” are permitted.— Liberty Counsel to Daniel Smith
In his response, Smith insisted that allowing a Bible verse in a teacher’s signature block would amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
Simply put, the general inclusion of religious quotes in communications LCPS employees send while in their public capacities is not private expression and runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, and as such, bars LCPS, as a local governmental entity, from taking sides in religious disputes or favoring or disfavoring anyone based on religion or belief, or lack thereof. To be clear, LCPS’s determination is not based on any particular religious viewpoint, and LCPS would take a consistent approach as it has here with respect to any religious expression incorporated in an LCPS employee’s email signature block of which it becomes aware.— Daniel Smith to Liberty Counsel
“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,” Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver said in a news release issued April 3.
EdNews Virginia will continue to monitor this developing story — it remains to be seen if a lawsuit will be filed against Loudoun County Public Schools.
Read Liberty Counsel’s Letter to Daniel Smith:
Read Daniel Smith’s Letter to Liberty Counsel: