Is It Legal to Open Carry on Campus?

Is it legal to carry weapons openly on school campuses? You’re probably thinking, “Of course not—not in this day and age!” And you would be right…if we were talking about firearms or other deadly weapons. In most areas of the country, it is illegal to carry weapons, openly or concealed, anywhere on a school campus. Today, however, we aren’t talking about firearms; we are talking about the “weapon” of the Bible, referred to in Scripture as a “two-edged sword.”

In the coming weeks, millions of parents and their children will be making trips to big box and office supply stores, sorting through bins and shelves to get the latest and greatest school supplies. And around this time every year, our attorneys at the National Center for Life and Liberty frequently are asked whether a Bible—a Christian’s two-edged sword—is allowable on the list of “supplies” a public school student may take to school. Given the increasing hostility against religion—and Christianity in particular—in our public schools, this is a great question.

Despite what atheist and progressive groups want you to think, however; this area of the law is well settled (at least for the time being). The answer to our question is a resounding “YES.” Students may bring to school books that are not part of the school curriculum and that may be read during study hall or free-reading times, and public schools may not prohibit a book such as the Bible merely because it is religious. Both carrying a Bible and reading it in school are constitutional free speech rights routinely protected by courts for public school students. The Establishment Clause, which is the part of the First Amendment typically invoked to silence Christians in the public square (with its so-called “Separation of Church and State” doctrine), only applies to the actions of government agents (as opposed to private persons)—in a school setting, those agents would primarily be school teachers and administrators. The only time a student’s “religious speech” might invoke the Establishment Clause—and potentially violate the separation of church and state—is when the argument can be made that the student’s speech is made on behalf of and with the approval of the school for an official school event.

Schools are not religion-free zones. If a student is not permitted to bring a Bible to school or to read it at appropriate times in school, his or her constitutionally-protected free speech and free exercise of religion rights are being violated. In fact, students may also spontaneously gather in groups over lunch or during other appropriate free times to study and discuss the Bible together. This free speech right is equivalent to the right students have to gather in groups over lunch or in the hallway to discuss a previous night’s TV program or any other topic of mutual interest. As long as such activities do not disrupt the academic work of the school program, they are legally-permitted forms of free speech.

When your children start back to school this year, make sure they understand that they have these rights. Encourage them to take their Bibles and to exercise their rights. If any school official tells them otherwise, please contact us here at the National Center for Life and Liberty. We have helped many, many public school students and parents throughout the years on this exact issue, and we’ve helped educate many public school teachers and administrators about the law as it relates to the Bible in public schools. If it’s wrong, we will fight it. If it’s right, we will fight for it!