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Bradley Johnson, California Math Teacher, Has No Constitutional Right To Use Banners Referring To God, Judge Rules


First Posted: 09/14/11 03:10 PM ET Updated: 11/14/11 05:12 AM ET

A federal appeals court in California ruled Tuesday that a San Diego-area math teacher does not have the constitutional right to display banners referring to God in his classroom.

Bradley Johnson, a math teacher for Poway Unified School District, is 30 years into his career and had banners he believed celebrated "the religious heritage of America," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Johnson had displayed the approximately 7-foot-by-2-foot banners -- one of which had the four phrases "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," "God Bless America," and "God Shed His Grace On Thee" -- in his classroom at another school for nearly 20 years. But when he came to Westview High School, Principal Dawn Kastner said the banners were "a promotion of a particular viewpoint" and ordered Johnson to take them down, the LA Times reports.

The second banner stated, "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR," according to the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm that filed the lawsuit on Johnson's behalf. Tuesday's ruling overturns a February decision by California Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez that said the school districted violated Johnson's constitutional rights.

Johnson argued that school officials discriminated against Christians by forcing him to remove the banners, noting that other teachers were allowed to hang Tibetan prayer flags or lyrics to a John Lennon song that references heaven, hell and religion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The appeals court said Tuesday that Johnson's role as a state-employed math teacher was to do as his job title conveys, not to "use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our nation's history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom," Christian Science Monitor reports.

Judge Richard Tallman of the appeals court wrote in the ruling that while Johnson can make his views known on the nation's religious history beyond the schoolyard, it is not appropriate for him to do so in the classroom.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this entry incorrectly stated that Johnson is 30 years old.


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