Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys continue to fight nationwide for your children’s liberty to live out their faith on their elementary school campuses. The opposition to that most basic freedom is remarkable: in some cases, school officials simply don’t understand the law; in other cases, for reasons of their own, administrators seem determined to silence even the most innocuous demonstrations of a child’s faith in Christ and commitment to defending life.
In Minnesota, for instance, a sixth grader at Nova Classical Academy was one of several students handing out pro-life fliers to other students during their lunch break. They weren’t making a big deal about it, or forcing the fliers on students who didn’t express an interest. This is just an issue these students care about. (One flier read, “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.”)
A few days later, the students were called into the school director’s office and told they were no longer allowed to pass these kinds of fliers out – during or after school hours, and even if students requested them – because some students find such pro-life fliers offensive.
Besides, the director said, school policy requires a student to get “prior approval from an administrator” before engaging in free speech. An email to the student’s parents said that the content of the fliers was inconsistent with the school’s educational mission and that “such political activism is limited to students in the School of Rhetoric [the high school] only.”
“The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech,” the director wrote. “In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech.”
In fact – as our attorneys point out in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the sixth grader – the “Academy’s literature distribution policy leaves censorship of student speech to the whim of Academy officials” and exhibits “hostility toward religious expression.” Plus, it turns out, “the Academy has allowed other similarly situated students to distribute written materials containing secular expression during non-instructional time.” (Paul Harvey used to call that “selective indignation.”)
“The law on this is extremely clear,” says Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Free speech cannot be censored simply because it expresses a certain viewpoint that administrators don’t favor. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.” (Stanley Zahorsky, one of more than 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in this case.)
Senior Counsel David Cortman points out, the implications of cases like this go far beyond a school’s right to take away a student’s First Amendment protections.
“This influences a lifetime,’” he says. “If we don’t stand with a child who stands for his faith in elementary school, that child is taught that there is something wrong with his faith. He won’t just keep silent in elementary school – he won’t speak up in high school, or on his college campus, or when he goes out into the world as an adult. Studies show that more than 60 percent of our children are walking away from their faith by the time they get out of college. That desertion begins here, when they are young, when they’re taught not to talk about or live out their faith.”
So much depends on our ability to safeguard the religious freedom and First Amendment-protections of your children and grandchildren. Please pray for our attorneys, coast to coast, as they work to keep a door open for the Gospel … even on our grade school campuses.