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A federal appeals court in California ruled Tuesday that a San Diego-area math teacher does not have the constitutional right to display America’s national motto, “In God We Trust” in his classroom.

The fact that school officials allowed Tibetan prayer flags in other classrooms was irrelevant.

Bradley Johnson, a math teacher for Poway Unified School District, is 30 years into his career and had banners he believed celebrated “the religious heritage of America,” according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Tuesday’s ruling overturns a February decision by California Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez that said the school districted violated Johnson’s constitutional rights. The appeals court said that Johnson’s role as a state-employed math teacher was to do as his job title conveys, not to “use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our nation’s history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Johnson argued that school officials discriminated against Christians by forcing him to remove the banners, noting that other teachers were allowed to hang Tibetan prayer flags or lyrics to a John Lennon song that references heaven, hell and religion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Judge Richard Tallman of the appeals court wrote in the ruling that while Johnson can make his views known on the nation’s religious history beyond the schoolyard, it is not appropriate for him to do so in the classroom. Johnson had displayed the approximately 7-foot-by-2-foot banners — one of which had the four phrases “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” “God Bless America,” and “God Shed His Grace On Thee” — in his classroom at another school for nearly 20 years. But when he came to Westview High School, Principal Dawn Kastner said the banners were “a promotion of a particular viewpoint” and ordered Johnson to take them down, reported the Los Angeles Times.

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