First Amendment: Religion and Education

First Amendment: Religion and Education

Grand Canyon University

POS 500

First Amendment: Religion and Education

Displaying class and artwork is a great way to encourage students and lets them know their work is valued. In the scenario of this assignment, a student writes an essay about Jesus and illustrates the Last Supper. As a teacher that displays all student work in the classroom, this could cause some legal issues if not careful. This essay will explain what a teacher can do in this case to avoid having any legal problems down the line.

The interpretation of the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause allows us to understand that “public schools cannot promote religious or antireligious groups” (Wicht, 2014). However, the Free Exercise Clause, also in the First Amendment, allows the “right to freely exercise one’s religion” (Mullally, 2011). Therefore, who is in the right? The students artwork cannot be singled out and removed due to its’ content. Doing so would be violating the student’s right by not allowing them to express themselves and their beliefs. Educators must know how to maintain a balance with the two clauses by ensuring to stay within the legal limits as well as respect student’s right to express freely without displaying any favoritism of one religion.

In the case of this student expressing his ideas and beliefs, balance could be accomplished by labeling the artwork with the students name, and sharing that the artwork on display are not views of the school and are displayed to honor the religious identity of the students. Displaying them will not cause any legal reprimands as long as the display is not permanent (ADL, n.d.). The grading for this assignment should be the same as any assignment and be graded based on what the requirements were and if they were met. The fact that the student decided to choose a religious figure to express their ideas and thoughts, does not mean they need to be treated any different. The issue comes when the work of art becomes something that is clearly not for display purposes. If the teacher decides to leave a religious drawing and does not take it down after some time, it could be violating the establishment clause because it would show favoritism towards that certain religion.

In conclusion, the First Amendment was establish to protect the rights of Americans and avoid conflict so we can practice and express ourselves freely. Ensuring that students complete their assignments regardless of who/what they choose for content, and creating a classroom where student may express their ideas is key to helping students succeed. However, teachers must understand the legal limits about displaying and the precautions needed in order not to violate any rights.


Anti-defomation League. (n.d.). Religion in the Public Schools: Religious Displays on School Property. Retrieved from

Mullally, C. (Sep 16, 2011). Free-exercise clause overview. Retrieved from

Wicht, S. (June 2, 2014). What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? Retrieved from