School Officials Discourage Christian, Agnostic Locker Signs In “Religions Battle”
By Mike Perleberg
(Vevay, Ind.) – Students at Switzerland County High School are getting a lesson in the limits of freedom of religion and speech in a public school.
Dueling locker signs between students identifying themselves as Christians and those who say they are agnostic have been ordered to be placed out of plain view by school officials, who say they are trying to prevent distractions in the classroom and hallways.
The episode began Monday when freshman student Tyler Manbeck and a friend decided to place signs on their lockers stating:
“I am a Christian. You can ridicule me. You can torture me. You can kill me. But you cannot change my mind.”
The sign also displays a wooden cross on a necklace.
Manbeck, 16, said he was inspired to display the sign by the recently-released film “God is Not Dead,” which he watched for the first time on Sunday.
After seeing his locker sign, other students at the high school began to request their own, which Manbeck has been happy to provide. Principal Gregg Goewert estimates 50 to 60 such signs were distributed by students.
For a couple days, the signs did not raise issues with anybody. But on Wednesday, Goewert tells Eagle 99.3, another student began to post around 100 new signs purporting his or her agnostic views. The signs closely resembling Manbeck’s were posted on lockers, walls, and other surfaces throughout the school. They stated:
“I am an agnostic. You can try to force religion on me. You can try to judge me. You can try to say I’m going to Hell. You’re not the one to decide any of that. I’m a person, too. Religion shouldn’t matter.”
The dueling signs on religious views became a distraction, as students opposed to the agnostic signs began to tear them down.
On Thursday, students arrived at school to find that the Christian signs had been moved by school personnel to inside the door of each locker displaying them. The agnostic signs were also moved out of plain view or taken down by staff.
“Our focus is on academics. Anything distracting the school environment we have to deal with,” says Goewert, who adds he wears a crucifix to work.
“It’s pretty well known public school law and court rulings about freedom of and freedom from (religion),” he said, referring to the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District.
Goewert said that the high school does allow students to decorate the outside of their lockers only with school-related material promoting students’ involvement with athletics, clubs, extracurricular activities, and school functions. A lot of lockers have been decorated as such and remain that way, he says.
“The lockers are not intended as a public forum,” he explained. The Switzerland County Community Schools of Board Trustees could choose to adopt a new locker policy stating as much.
Unhappy he is now not allowed to display his sign outside his locker, Tyler Manbeck took to social media Thursday evening. He asked friends to share a photo of lockers belonging to him and a friend. He called the sign situation “a religions battle during school.” He also created a Facebook page titled Bring God Back in the Schools of America.
After receiving a swell of encouragement, Manbeck says he is moving the sign back to the outside of his locker Friday.
“They think it’s offending them, but we’re standing up for what we believe in. We’re not looking to force our beliefs on others,” he says.
Goewert said the small high school’s student body is typically a tight group and students have been good friends until this episode blew up. The school may start taking a more active role in teaching tolerance towards all views, he added.
Switzerland County Community Schools Superintendent Mike Jones – who serves as the pastor at Patriot Baptist Church – said he only became aware of the issue Thursday evening. He was beginning to investigate Friday morning.
Goewert and assistant principal David Todd said they would be speaking with students about the sign issue. No students have been disciplined as of Friday morning, they said.
Having the Bible in school wouldn't keep anyone out of jail. the are plenty of "Christians" in jail, for horrible crimes. Now, the problem with this article is the fact that they make it look like the Christian kids had nothing to do with the problem at hand. There is no one on the other side of the argument that is interviewed here. The signs posted were not only posted on Christian people's lockers, but also on multiple people's lockers who didn't want them there. The real problem began when the Agnostic signs were torn down because they were against the Christian belief system.
I think it is fine for them to decorate their lockers, but once the agnostic students started to have their signs ripped down, then that is a violation and discrimination against their views. If one group is going to have their signs vandalized, then I think the school was right to step in and say no more. It's no longer about expressing your beliefs, it then becomes a distraction that doesn't belong in school.
I do agree should let them decorate however an if someone is religious then so b it just look an walk by don't have to retaliate back like that he was just proud who he is . Grow up learn to ignore an pass by if not for u no one lecturing u period. Don't think they should bring god back n schools that's whats catholic an other schools r for or give them a choice to join. Kids should have there own choices an decisions should not b forced to go against what they believe. its 2014 people get real grow up an stop my gosh.
Sign of the times. Keep your Faith and stand for what you believe. Politicians and the minority are Keeping Bibles out of Schools, but Prisons let inmates have Bibles. Maybe if Schools had Bibles, prisoners wouldn't be in Prison. Life is hard enough, if your stupid it's even harder. John Wayne Quote. This Country was founded on Christianity. We live in the greatest Nation in the World, elect me and help me change it. Barrack Obama,
Come on. The problem is your not a Muslim. Then you could throw your rug down and pray in the Middle of the Hallway. Whats wrong with you Christians? Christians are about Love, forgiveness, honesty and believing in heaven and the Almighty God. That's Horrible that you have a Loving Faith, come on man, get with the Program.
The fact that my school is in a religion war bugs me.... I am a sophmore at SCHS. And also am best friends with two atheist and I am Roman Catholic. This war is seriously OUT OF HAND everyone in y opinion needs to start focusing more on school than the drama....
We aren't trying to force religion on anyone. We are just trying to get our point across that GOD is NOT dead! We are trying to show that Christians shouldn't be treated any differently because of what they believe in. I am a student at this school and I love what is going on. We can all stand up for this and show everyone that GOD IS NOT DEAD!
I don't understand how people can say that we need to bring God back into schools. If you are a Christian, then Christ is in your heart. Therefore, he goes where you go. You don't need to show your Christian beliefs by making posters or judging others. The best way to show your a Christian and to share your beliefs are to act like a Christian. Actions do speak louder than words. Show others how loving and forgiving God is, by loving others and admitting to imperfections. If you are worried about non-Christians, pray for them and let God handle the rest. Be a positive influence.
The agnostic signs were not printed by the hundreds.. Maybe 15 were posted. I suggest getting facts straight before taking it into the public eye. I dont see a problem with the posters at all. No one is saying anything bad about the other persons beliefs. We are all entitled to our own beliefs. This is why religion and school aren't often combined in public school systems.. The kids are obviously too immature to accept that we are all different and are allowed to believe in whatever we so please.
Which Religion would you like to be brought back in school? Is it okay if we bring Buddhism or Islam? Or should it be of the Catholic faith? If the schools agreed to make one certain religion mandatory that was not your religion of choice then what? Do you think its fair to push your beliefs on everyone else? If they made you practice Islam would you want to go to school? Or think it was fair that they were pushing their Islamic beliefs on you. I think not. School is for Academics not religion. And it shouldn't be our schools responsibility to teach kids about Christ. That is the parents duty. And when we want to learn about Christ we go to Church.
I am a Christian my husband is atheist to each his own. It is an individual choice you don't have to believe what the next person believes. And no one on earth is at liberty to judge......Freedom of religion!
We need GOD back into the school. Look at our kids today its very sad. Let bring back some of the old ways that were in our schools.
No your wrong they should have never put the agnostic signs on the Christian locker and on the walls at the school. The where torn down due to the fact they put them on every locker and wall that's what cased the war.
I agree we don't have to push any religion just our faith in God and these students saying they have freedom and these kids don't need to be slamming this down their throat well grow up nobody was putting in their face it was on THEIR locker and its not like they were putting it on everyone's locker but I bet if it was for a sporting event nothing would have been said or done.
There was no "war". The signs weren't posted anywhere they weren't wanted, yet they were torn down. One was removed from my locker and I wanted it there. Anyone calling what happened a "war" however is wrong.
@Godisreal They were torn down because it was getting out of hand.. I dont understand why this argument is still going on. Everyone has the right to their own opinions and religions beliefs. We are not all carbon copies of the same brain, I'm agnostic and I couldnt care less if you are christian. It doesnt effect my life so why worry about other peoples beliefs.