A host of new public-interest law firms are helping American Christians fight for their religious liberties

Late in 1992, 14-year-old christine Fisher was given a writing assignment—“What Christmas Means to Me and Why”—for her computer class at Hill Country Middle School in Austin, Texas. Her teacher, Tom Roudebush, promised the class he would select the best essays for the school’s newspaper.

Christine was excited when she learned that her essay had been chosen. Principal Joe Bartlett, however, sent word that he could only publish the essay if Christine agreed to some changes. He wanted “It is also the day that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth” altered to “It is also a day that people celebrate love.” When Christine’s father talked to Bartlett, he was unbending, citing “legal reasons.” He said he was not censoring Christine, but using “editorial license.”

Ten years ago, the Fishers would probably have dropped the issue. Evangelicals did not sue or fight the system. But times have changed. Like thousands of other Americans, Christine’s parents contacted the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending religious rights. Rutherford attorneys called school authorities, politely but firmly clarifying the law: A child’s right to free speech includes the right to discuss religious beliefs, and that right is not surrendered at the school door. They also suggested that if school officials were unyielding, they would be sued.

Christine’s essay was published in the next issue of the school newspaper.

In former times, the students, teachers, and administrators at Country Middle School would all have learned the same lesson: Do not mention Christ at school, even if the topic is the meaning of Christmas. Now they ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: