Lee v. Weisman holds that public schools cannot offer prayers at graduation ceremonies. It has another curious implication: according to George Dent, it also means that public schools must excuse religious dissenters from offensive parts of the currculum. I think this is an astute observation. The issues are not alike doctrinally Weisman is an Establishment Clause case; the curriculum cases are Free Exercise cases. But the schools cause similar harms in both cases; they do so mostly by exposing children to unwelcome ideas. Why is this so upsetting? Why object to hearing people talk? I want to make three observations: the first is about harms; the second is about causation; and the third is about justifying rules that shield children from ideas.
John H. Garvey, Cover Your Ears, 43 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 761 (1993).