Religious Liberties Discussion
If you have a viewpoint on this issue, we encourage you to write a letter to the editor of our community's legal news organ, The Statesboro Herald. Letters may be sent to Jim Healy.
Viewpoints from all sides of the issue are in the chronological order in which they appeared in print. The titles of these pieces will be kept as they appeared in print as well for reference. The opinions expressed in these Letters to the Editor are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Bulloch County Board of Education, its superintendent or its employees.
Religious Liberties Discussion
In 2013-14 a discussion began in our community about the rights of Bulloch County Schools' employees to express their religious beliefs while serving in their official duties. The Bulloch County Board of Education(Board) has not changed or adopted any new policies prohibiting the rights of school system employees to practice their constitutional rights of religious expression. However, there was a reminder from Superintendent Charles Wilson to the school district's 15 school principals about the established legal requirements to which employees must adhere. This annual reminder is a common practice.
The Board wants its employees to be free to express their religious faiths to the fullest extent of the law. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, addresses these rights and restrictions.
The Board and Superintendent support employees and their rights to express their beliefs and concerns. They also support community-based efforts to seek appropriate remedy to infringement, real or perceived, upon freedom of religious expression with the proper authorities. While they stand in support, they are also bound by their oaths of office abide by all state and federal laws in carrying out their official duties.
The specific issues that were discussed and clarified were the following: (1) Employee expressions of faith in public schools; (2) Religious quotes on school system email signatures; (3) Employee participation in student-initiated/led prayer; (4) Religious items in the classroom; and (5) Are employees being intimidated or influenced to suppress their religious beliefs.
The resources on this page may be helpful in understanding this matter.
Bulloch County Schools News Releases
Board: Email Policy Approved
At its meeting on February 13, 2014, the Bulloch County Board of Education approved a revision to its Employee Internet Acceptable Use Policy in regards to the use of email signature lines of the school system's email network.
At its January 9, 2014 meeting, the Bulloch County Board of Education placed a revision to its Employee Internet Acceptable Use Policy on the table for review and discussion. It is customary for policy revisions to remain on the table for one month in order for the Board to hear input from employees or constituents within their districts.
The policy revision ensures complete neutrality and impartiality within school system email signatures and addresses demands listed within a December 5 letter from Liberty Institute. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin Judy wrote the revision. The exact wording is as follows:
Employees' email accounts are owned by the District and are not their personal email accounts. The school account should be used for school matters. In using these accounts, employees should use an e-mail signature block that includes only the employee's name, title, assigned school, mailing address, e-mail address, phone number and fax number. Employees should not include quotes or other personal messages as part of the signature block.
Bulloch County Board of Education Meeting (12/5/13)
Local News Coverage
Bulloch Co. Citizens Petition for Religious Liberties (WSAV 12/2/13)
Bulloch School Board Wrestles With Policy (WTOC 12/2/13)
Board: We Support Religious Expression (PDF) (Statesboro Herald 12/3/13)
Religious Debate in Bulloch County (WJCL 12/4/13)
Bulloch Disputes Fox News Story (GA Eagle Media 12/4/13)
Bulloch Co. Citizens Fight for Religious Freedom (WSAV 12/5/13)
Petition Group to Address BOE on Religious Freedom (WTOC 12/5/13)
Religious Freedom Debate Tops Bulloch BOE Mtg. (WTOC 12/6/13)
Speakers: Schools Restricting Religion (PDF) (Statesboro Herald 12/6/13)
Firm Threatens To Sue School System (PDF) (Statesboro Herald 12/7/13)
Bulloch BOE Threatened With Lawsuit (GA Eagle Media 12/8/13)
School Board Creates New Email Policy (PDF) (Statesboro Herald 12/13/13)
Bulloch Co. BOE Responds to Liberty Institute (WTOC 12/12/13)
Bulloch BOE Responds to Petition;Religious Liberties (WTOC 12/13/13)
District Clarifies Religious Guidelines (WTOC 12/13/13)
Bulloch BOE Responds (WJCL 12/13/13)
BOE Issues Response to Liberty Institute (GA Eagle Media 12/13/12)
Board to Discuss Religious Expression (PDF) (Statesboro Herald 12/18/13)
Meeting to Discuss Religious Liberties (WTOC 12/19/13 6PM)
Meeting to Discuss Religious Liberties (WTOC 12/19/13 11PM)
Bulloch Co. Schools Holds Meeting (WJCL 12/19/13)
School Board Fields Religious Policy Queries (PDF) (Herald 12/20/13)