Employees of a school district in Maryland have been accused of viewpoint discrimination for censoring and limiting the speech of a religious group on school grounds.
The Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sent a letter to the Montgomery County school board on Monday to address the issue, stating that religious group Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays (PFOX) have a right to hand out materials to students on campus.
This is the same county that is currently in heated debate with parents over a new pro-homosexual sexual education curriculum that was recently passed.
"Christian groups should not be treated as second-class. Indeed, they cannot be under the school district's own policy," explained David Cortman, Senior Legal Counsel for ADF, in a statement. "School officials do not have the right to engage in censorship of viewpoints they don't like. The board has a policy permitting the distribution of literature by outside organizations and community groups, and it is unconstitutional then for district employees to single out certain organizations for censorship."
For some time now, PFOX has been distributing Christian information to students within the Montgomery County school district. Their efforts have recently increased over opposition to a pro-gay sex-ed health program that the county school board approved in the beginning of July.
Several faculty in the district have strong feelings against PFOX, however, and have tried to stop the group from distributing their literature. Angry emails have been sent to the group telling them to not to set foot on campus.
"Stay out of our schools and leave our children alone!" wrote one teacher from Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. "[Your group] is like the KKK but only in the form of religion."
Employees at Winston Churchill High School located in Potomac, Md., went so far as to place the PFOX's name on its trash cans and encouraged students to place the fliers in the receptacle.
Attorneys from ADF have explained that this kind of behavior is viewpoint discrimination, however, since the school allows other non-profit groups to hand out literature to its students. Two different cases towards the Maryland school district by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit have solidified this First Amendment Right of religious speech, they argue.
The lawyers have noted in the letter that if the Montgomery County school board does not act to stop the opposing actions, they will recommend PFOX to file a civil legal lawsuit against the board.
The Montgomery County school officials are already in an argument with local families and pro-family groups after it passed a pro-homosexual sex-ed curriculum that would force eighth and tenth graders to learn about altered sexual orientations and acceptance of alternative lifestyles. It would also have a DVD on the correct use of a condom for the sophomores.
Several groups are contemplating filing a federal lawsuit to challenge the school board's passing of the curriculum, noting that parents should have the final say in their children's upbringing. They do not feel that they "must bend to the State's duty to educate its citizens," as county school officials argued.
"The school is not only engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, but clearly it has also displayed an obvious desire to indoctrinate students with a radical, pro-homosexual agenda," concluded Jeremy Tedesco, the ADF Legal Counsel who wrote the letter to the school board, in a statement. "Montgomery County children deserve a better education than this."