Christian law group Alliance Defending Freedom has filed an appeal over a federal judge's ruling that a Texas school district is right in its decision to bar the Jesus tattoo ad from its jumbotron during high school football games.
"Having a viewpoint that school officials don't favor isn't grounds for censorship," ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp said on Wednesday. "When a public school opens up a venue for community advertising, it cannot single out religious messages that it doesn't like. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs."
The Lubbock Independent School District has refused to allow the religious ad to play at football games, denying last year the request of David L. Miller, founder of Little Pencil, LLC, an organization that promotes biblical teachings.
The ad in question depicts an image of Jesus Christ covered in tattoos with the words "addicted" and "depressed," among other negative words. The website, jesustattoo.org, features a video in which a man resembling Jesus acts as a tattoo artist and removes people's tattoos with the negative words and replaces them with words like, "accepted," "brave" and "humble."
The website also notes that it is not run by a church, but represents "a small group of people humbled by the love of Jesus."
The Texas school district argued in Little Pencil v. Lubbock Independent School District that it cannot display the ads because it is prohibited from allowing religious advertisements on government property, based on the Establishment Clause.
ADF has insisted, however, that the district allows other religious groups to advertise on the property.
In May, U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings sided with Lubbock Independent, a decision which was praised by the school district.
"Throughout this process, we have asserted that our actions were keeping with district policies, state, and federal law, and we are pleased that the Court ruled in favor of Lubbock ISD. We will continue to focus on our mission of educating students and hope we can put this behind us and give our complete attention to that important work," a statement said.
ADF, which originally filed the lawsuit against the school district on Jan.28, will be appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
"It's not the government's job to pick and choose between religious organizations and their missions when determining who can have ad space," added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. "The district court's decision was in error, and we hope the 5th Circuit will affirm that the constitutionally protected messages of all Americans should be free from government censorship."