A U.S. Appeals Court ruled on Tuesday that a then-fifth-grade student should have been allowed to pass out fliers to her classmates to invite them to a Christmas party at her church as it wouldn't cause "substantial disruption."
An earlier news report noted that the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court upheld a lower court's earlier decision allowing the student, identified as K.A., to share invitations with her classmates based on a free speech standard set in a Vietnam-era Supreme Court case about a high school anti-war protest. Court documents also highlighted that the law on how the case should affect elementary schools is still evolving. "The fact that K.A. was only in the fifth-grade and the invitation originated from her church does not mandate a different approach," Judge Thomas Vanaskie wrote in his 31-page opinion.
The Appeals Court ruling came more than two years after K.A's Pennsylvania public school said she couldn't pass out the fliers.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday, Matt Sharp, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Ariz. which represented K.A. and her family, said they were happy with the ruling.
"We were very pleased with the court's ruling in this. For several years there has been a move in the courts to respect the first amendment rights of students in particular, particularly younger students in elementary and middle school to share their faith at school," he said.
"What this opens up is not just an invitation to a Christmas party but to any other religious event. It opens the door for K.A. to distribute any religious materials whether it's an invitation to a church event or something else. As long as it's done in a manner that doesn't create a material disruption in school," added Sharp.
He further explained that the opinion from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the best opinions currently available on the debate about expanding the First Amendment rights of younger students at school to share their faith with their classmates.
K.A.'s case stems from a 2010 Christmas party invitation at the Innovation Church that offered face painting, music and games among the attractions. Her request to distribute the invitation was rejected after back and forth communication between her father, school officials and the Pocono Mountain School District.
Meantime, according to Sharp, other students were allowed to hand out invitations freely to birthday parties and other events. "The door was shut for K.A. to be able to hand out invitations to church events that she wanted to invite her friends," said Sharp. "The Court also pointed this out in their opinion noting that the school district allowed some outside organizations to share information with students about non-school events. The girl hoped "to share her religious faith with her classmates," said the opinion.