Montana school boards are voting to update outdated guiding principles from “separation of church and state” to “balance between church and state” following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The proposed change to the Montana School Board Association (MTSBA) principles reflect a “completely different landscape” with a part of Montana’s Constitution no longer enforceable, according to MTSBA Executive Director Lance Melton.
“You go from five years ago to now and it’s night and day in what we’ve seen and all that school boards now need to watch out for and pay attention to,” Melton said.
The association represents virtually all of Montana’s school districts. Lobbying, resources and general guidance to school boards are all provided by the association.
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Melton said school staff, coaches and teachers are now held to a different standard in how they can express themselves religiously. A shift toward free expression led by Supreme Court rulings means public school districts have less ability to penalize employees regarding religion.
“It’s not something I would’ve suggested was the case five years ago, and I would’ve not advised as much to school boards back then either,” Melton said.
Additionally, religious schools in Montana