Acceptable Relics in Public School

What could someone who works in a public school carry or have in one’s room to remind him of the faith…that would be acceptable (mindful of church/state separation). It might be in a pocket, around a neck, on a desk, etc.


I don’t know if the law varies among the states, but in mine - as long as the school allows the staff to bring in personal items - family pictures, vacation tchotchkes, etc. - then they cannot stop you from bringing in something of your faith. As a Paraeducator I had a crucifix that sat flat on my desk, a nativity set at Christmas time and I always wore my crucifix around my neck and precious baby feet pin on my collar. Okay, the last isn’t religious but a lot of people see it as such (and very controversial.) Oh, and at Easter I had a greeting card that I had received from a friend taped to the closet behind my desk that said “He is Risen” with a cross on it. It was there through Pentecost.

I have a St. Clare holy card taped to my computer monitor and a Mother Theresa knick knack with a quote on my window sill. In my pocket is a St .Clare chaplet (I have a friend who is a Poor Clare) and on my ID lanyard is a small cross and a dove. Around my neck is a cross and a miraculous medal. On my screensaver is a picture of my kids receiving their First Holy Communion. I have the prayer of St. Francis (Lord make me an instrument of your peace…) taped to my filing cabinet.

I need all the help I can get at school.

Separation of Church and State doesn’t mean that your Faith has to take a back seat to anything. The Founding Fathers (I presume that you are writing from the USA) merely didn’t want an organized church interfering in matters of governance. We must remember that up until the sixites, Christian prayers were said in public schools across America. Also, some of the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, were outright heretics.

In short, to curb your rights to represent your faith in public, or even Evangelize in public, are unconstitutional. Separation of Church and State has to tempered with Freedom of Religion, and not in the secular way in which liberals would have it.

False propagation of this is also part of why Catholics were, and continue to be, the object of great prejudice in the United States: we don’t believe that Congress is inerrant and has a God-given right to tell us what to do. Only the Pope, through the Holy Spirit, has that right, which we know he will use wisely.

Standing up for your faith in public is a matter of overcoming that persecution. Remember: the original object of the KKK was not to promote white supremacy, but to carry out anti-Catholic activities.

Thank you for your thoughts everyone. I do have to reply respectfully to Mat.

I definitely hear what you are saying. It is true-we have a right to have faith and pray in public. And we can be evangelical in our relations with other adults (parents, staff, etc).

I just have to clarify—it seems that you are suggesting that we have no restrictions whatsoever in the public schools. This is an important distinction–teachers cannot evangelize or support one religious view over another to their students. This is quite clear.

At first this seems quite constraining to us Catholics/Christians…and it seems to be out of harmony with our faith. However, we must consider other perspectives if we truly believe in religious freedom in our country. For example, I would guess that your feelings on the subject would be quite different if your child’s teacher was evangelizing as a Muslim…or maybe in the name of Wicca. Parents should be the primary teachers of religious thought…it is not the government-controlled school system’s place to promote one religion (even though as Catholics we believe there is only one true faith). This restriction must be made in order for true religious freedom to exist. Catholics/Christians would really cling to this ideal if we were a small minority in the country.

So-yes…I would love to openly pray with my students and discuss the fullness of the truth found in the Catholic Church, but this would currently be unconstitutional. It is also grounds for termination. In order to keep one’s job as a public school teacher (allowing one to support the Church and family), one must transmit the fruits of the spirit in less explicit ways in our interactions with our students.

I guess I should be more specific than “Church-State separation”. If you want to google something more specific I am talking about the Establishment Clause.

I have a rosary in my pocket and/or a bracelet that is a full rosary on my wrist, the prayer (bookmark) of St. Teresa on my desk, a crucifix around my neck, and a picture of Pope JPII and Mother Teresa, among pictures of my son, family, and students on my screensaver. I often have some scripture verses taped onto my monitor.

As for separation of church and state, the establishment clause, etc., I simply never discuss religion with my students. They sometimes bring it up in the context of a class discussion:

Teacher: "Who could you invite to your music program next week?"
Student: "My parents."
Student: "My grandma."
Student: "God."
Student: "God is everywhere."
Student: "Jesus is God."
Student: "Jesus died for our sins."
Teacher: “Yes, you could definitely invite God. Is there anyone else you’d like to invite?”

This conversation actually took place in my classroom in my first year of teaching. (I’m the music teacher.) Their classroom teacher told me this class brought God into everything. Beautiful, yes?

But as a teacher in the public schools I have to direct class conversations to stay on topic and away even from student-led conversations about religion. Notice I said “class discussions.” Conversations between students on the playground, at lunch, outside of class time is between those students unless one of them specifically complains about it (e.g., Miss, she called me a poopy head). And I never discuss my faith with my students in any context. If they ask my religion, I ask them questions about their faith, but I never answer. If they ask me specifically if I’m Catholic, I smile and say yes and nothing more about it.

I have a tremendous repsect for my students’ religious lives, regardless of their religion. God will certainly use their learning and efforts in that faith to draw them closer to His Truth.

Thanks for the question.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit