The courts would never tolerate religious coercion in a public school. But because the subject of the teacher-assigned performative rituals was political rather than religious, the Ninth Circuit panel washed the government’s hands of any responsibility for implementing a coercive program of official indoctrination that steamrolls students’ First Amendment rights of conscience and dissent.
The panel’s error is profound. The line between religious and political coercion is illusory, but the line between teaching students about controversial subjects and “asking” them to demonstrate fealty to official political dogma by word and deed is quite bright. School officials trampled that line, along with the students’ First Amendment rights.