School district officials in Roswell, N.M., said religious discrimination was not a factor in their decision to stop Christian high school students from distributing baby dolls resembling fetuses on campus.
The Roswell Independent School District maintained that school regulation does not allow advertising or soliciting on campus. The baby dolls had a card attached to it with a Bible verse and contact information for a local pregnancy resource center.
“While it is accurate to say that the miniatures were tied with strips of ribbon with a Bible verse attached on a card, it is not accurate to conclude that any confiscations was on account of the verse,” the district stated in a letter to Liberty Counsel, the students' legal representative, according to the Roswell Daily Record.
Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group often involved in religious freedom and free speech cases, had sent a letter to school district officials in February saying the students’ right to freedom of speech were violated in the incidents.
Attorney David Corry said in the letter that the students were part of an area-wide religious youth group called Relentless in Roswell. The group is not affiliated with any school and has done many outreach and service activities in area schools during the 2009-2010 school year.
Relentless members, Corry said, have helped janitors with trash after lunch, given chicken salad lunches to teachers, provided hot cocoa to students and faculty, and passed out decorated rocks and candy canes to fellow students without needing to get approval from officials beforehand.
But when these students distributed small baby dolls with an attached Bible verse, “district representatives reacted with surprising opposition and force,” the students' attorney wrote. The pro-life students had passed out the dolls in January and February during lunch.
Providing an example, the attorney described how the assistant principal at Goddard High made an announcement over the public address system warning students to not distribute anything without approval or risk disciplinary actions. Some students were held in detention.
But according to the Roswell Independent School District’s policies, Corry argued, the passing out of rubber babies with Bible verses does not require advance notice or approval.
An attorney for the Roswell Independent School District said in a response letter that the distribution of candy canes, hot chocolate and rocks without permission is different than the case with the fetus doll because the doll promoted the services of a pregnancy center.
“The fact that the alternate side contained a Bible verse is not relevant since the sides of the card could not be separated without destruction of the card,” contended the school district.
School officials also clarified that the only major disciplinary act was confiscating the “unapproved material.” Two students were held in a one-day Saturday school detention because they again distributed unapproved material.
Additionally, the school district complained that the fetus dolls disrupted studies on campus and pointed to an incident in an English class when some students ripped off the heads of dolls and said they were performing abortions.
Liberty Counsel and the Roswell school district are still in discussion over the case.