Yesterday, October 8, 2014, was “Fields of Faith” day, in which students and teachers participated in an annual, student-organized, and student-led gathering at school athletic fields at the end of their school day. At the Fields of Faith, students read the Holy Bible together, heard Christian testimonies, worshipped together, and prayed for one another. A school athletic field is used because it provides a neutral place where an entire community can come together. First organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2004, it is beautiful to see many young people boldly proclaim their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You can watch a promotional video here. Hundreds of Fields of Faith events took place throughout the United States. For information on the rallies near you, please go to www.fieldsoffaith.com.
Since the first Field of Faith, however, some government school officials have sought to unconstitutionally keep teachers and students from sharing about and participating in the event. This was usually done under the pretense that schools were prohibited from holding such events by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. In actual fact, the opposite is true. Student groups have the constitutionally protected freedom to participate in Fields of Faith prayer and worship activities, and to inform their fellow students about the event to the same extent that other student groups are allowed to promote, participate, and use school facilities for other types of activities and events. Importantly, coaches, teachers, and yes, even school administrators can participate in the event as private citizens. Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”), a major civil liberties law organization with thousands of allied attorneys throughout the United States, has published a legal memorandum to support the rights of students to gather for such an event. (It is also an excellent summation of the constitutional rights of religious students beyond Fields of Faith.) The law memorandum is available here. The ADF memorandum states in part:
The Supreme Court has squarely stated that a student’s free speech rights apply ”when [they are] in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during the authorized hours.” . . . This includes prayer: “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.”
The memorandum also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination.” It is truly astounding to me that so many government school administrators and teachers do not understand these simple and well-established principles of American jurisprudence. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco recently stated, “Christians don’t abandon their constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse gate. Their freedom to peacefully express their beliefs extends to after-school events, and that certainly includes activities like those at Fields of Faith.”
Let us join together to pray for the powerful witness of so many young people who gather to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. For there is no legitimate basis for government school officials to prohibit or impede students and teachers from engaging in the activities for Fields of Faith. Students, may God bless you and your schools richly. I sure would have liked this event when I was in school.