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The story of the Cheektowaga High School teacher who is the focus of a federal lawsuit could be a landmark case in the debate over religion in public schools.

If only it could lead to a more civilized kind of debate.

Joelle Silver, 29, complained in court papers that district officials threatened to fire her if she didn't take down posters with religious messages, notes with Bible quotes and a “prayer request” box for a Bible Study Club.

She says her First Amendment rights are being violated. A national organization called the postings unconstitutional and said they should be removed.

This is the kind of issue that calls for an airing in the marketplace of ideas, where reasonable people who disagree can introduce and rebut salient points in an attempt to settle their debate.

Or they can go online, call each other names, present opinion as fact and scoff at everyone else's viewpoint.

The initial Buffalo News report about this case has provoked more than 730 online comments. I've condensed some of my favorites to just their opening point to give you a flavor of the kind of “debate” occurring online.

The first commenter quoted Thomas Jefferson's famous opinion that there should be a separation between church and state.

From there …

And he also believed in slavery.

Were you there?

And Hitler liked dogs.

You are too dumb to live.

Wrong again.

Nope, you're a deluded psycho.

Really? Isn't 90+% of the prison population Christians?

I strongly disagree with that.

Perhaps you should read the Treaty of Tripoli.

Die already.

Religion is the divider.

Uh, what a lame argument.

Your (sic) an uninformed dimwit.

Why is bringing up firearms relevant here?

I'm sorry, but that really made no sense.

Your stupid prejudices about her seem scarier.

Moron.

Diversity!

Lying again about what I think, tootsie roll!

Obviously you have never read 1984 :D

You are the sewer of religion.

You still don't get it.

I'm not for censorship …

Show that to me in the First Amendment.

More ignorance.

I hope you don't breed.

Wow Dude.

I'll stop paying property taxes to fund your delusion.

Your idea of reality is fascism.

WRONG!

I have given you the actual words, you reject those words.

Did you even read Jefferson's writings?

99% of all prisoners are believers.

I am concerned for them.

Belief is not proof.

DISTURBING statements!

I'm sorry, but that's an absolutely disgusting sentiment to express.

Who are you calling a bonehead???

What you are in need of is an education.

Luke 14:26

I see BN removed my comment concerning convicted pedophiles.

You were proven wrong, get used to it.

Your ignorance is appalling.

You get the idea. And it's not really news that disagreement breeds such vitriol.

But given the many ways we can communicate today, we should have a place for open-minded people interested in honest debate about an important issue.

I think I'll go listen to AM radio.

email: bandriatch@buffnews.com