Participation in "See You at the Pole" Constitutional
Special Report - September 22, 2008
The millions of students who will gather around their school flagpoles to pray this Wednesday, September 24, have a constitutional right to do so, according to a legal memo published by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The memo is intended to help students understand their constitutional rights to gather together and pray at school during the 2008 “See You at the Pole” (SYATP) event, which is held nationally on the fourth Wednesday of September. “This annual event is an opportunity for school officials to exemplify constitutional conduct by protecting the right of SYATP participants to properly exercise their First Amendment rights,” the ADF memo states.
SYATP is a student-led and student initiated prayer gathering that is held before school begins (typically at 7:00 a.m.) at elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as on college and university campuses, nationwide. The event began in Texas in 1990, and is coordinated by the San-Diego-based National Network of Youth Ministries, which emphasizes that SYATP is not a “demonstration or political rally,” but simply a time for students to pray for their friends, teachers, parents, and the nation. The theme for this year’s SYATP is “Connect: Speak for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:6).
In its legal memo outlining the rights of students to participate in SYATP, ADF states: “Our government and courts have spoken: Students have a constitutional right to participate in SYATP through prayer and worship activities. Furthermore, students have an individual constitutional right to inform their fellow students about the SYATP event as long as they do not materially disrupt the academic process while doing so. In addition, if the school allows individual students or student clubs to advertise events through school bulletin boards, school PA systems, general posting of student flyers, or other means, the school cannot forbid the same means of advertising for the SYATP event.”
Last year, over two million students participated in SYATP events in all 50 states. “Every year, we have seen this day serve as a springboard for unity among teenagers on their campuses,” said Paul Fleischmann, president of the National Network of Youth Ministries, in a press release. “Young people have taken unprecedented leadership through this to have a positive impact at their schools.”
For more information about "See You at the Pole 2008," including promotional and planning materials and legal advice, visit the web site at www.syatp.com.
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.