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    Speak Up! - View Question #472

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    Question: What if a student carries a knife as a religious symbol to school? Wouldn't taking it away be an infringement on our 1st Amendment freedom of religion?

    Answer: There's no clear-cut answer to this question. Rather, the answer depends on several things.

    First off, the First Amendment ot the U.S. Constitution prohibits public schools from enforcing rules that impose a substantial burden on a student's exercise of his or her religion, unless the school can show a very good reason. So, for example, a school must allow a student to make up a test that she missed because of her absence during a religious holiday. The school's interest in having a student take a test on a particular day is not important enough to ignore the student's interest in observing her religion. A student, however, must show that following the rule would cause her to violate her religious beliefs. In other words, a religious belief cannot be used just as an excuse for avoiding a rule that the student simply dislikes.

    In light of the concerns about school safety, a court probably would look very skeptically upon a student's claim that the First Amendment gives him the right to wear a knife as a religious symbol. But it is still possible that a court would agree with the student if certain conditions were met.

    First, the student would be required to prove that he sincerely practices a religion that requires its believers to carry a knife. Second, the court would balance the student's interest in practicing his religion against the school's interest in safety. In balancing the interests of student and school, the court should consider whether the school could accommodate the student and avoid serious safety risks.

    6 thru 10 of 15 comments     1  [ 2 ]  3    
    On 08/17/05
    mike from PA said:
    By definition, a cult is a religion, and a religion is a cult, every single one.
    On 11/13/03
    Brian from CT said:
    I think it is a slander against liberals. This webpage is saying that anyone who likes plants is a Greenpeace fanatic who throws blood on old ladies' furs in their spare time. However, what they were perhaps trying to say is that even the most innocent are guilty... Althought putting a 6 inch knife in his bag rather than a pocketknife didn't help that 'innocent' portrayal.
    On 11/06/03
    Frank from AS said:
    "And I have a right to feel protected." Not under the constitution or laws of the USA you don't. Also, calling someone else's religion a "cult" just because you don't understand it is ignorant and biggoted. The Sikh religion is an old and established religion, not a cult. Learn your facts before you judge.
    On 11/06/03
    Nick from PA said:
    Why are there peace symbols and "liberal" stickers on that backpack? How is this not a blatant slander against liberals by implication?
    On 05/27/03
    Jennifer from CA said:
    The Sikh religion requires male believers to carry a ceremonial dagger as part of one's religious committment to defend the faith and the helpless.
    6 thru 10 of 15 comments     1  [ 2 ]  3    

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