A Kansas public middle school has prevented a seventh grader from passing out and posting religious fliers inviting fellow students to join her for a prayer session at the school's flagpole before class.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that advocates for religious expression, announced earlier this month that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the unnamed student at Robert E. Clark Middle School, located in the suburbs of Kansas City.
The lawsuit claims that the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville Unified School District policy, which prohibits students from distributing religious materials on school property, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, as well as the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.
ADF explains that the student it represents is a devout Christian with a strong desire to share her faith with her classmates. She wanted to distribute fliers, which included scripture, to invite her classmates to participate in the "See You at the Pole" event she wanted to have before school one day.
The student's desire to post and pass out the fliers, ADF argues, is much like the same reason that other students in the school post their fliers: "to inform their classmates about activities and events in which the students may desire to participate."
"Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Non-disruptive private student expression is protected by the First Amendment," the lawsuit states. "Private speakers are entitled to equal, viewpoint neutral access to public fora."
ADF further points out that it is quite ironic that the school failed in the past to use the power of censorship when students posted posters referencing marijuana and alcohol, yet was quick to censor fliers that were designed to inform students of a harmless prayer gathering. As the lawsuit states, a poster promoting the popular rap star Lil Wayne which had the words "Good Kush and Alcohol" written on it was posted in the school's hallway just outside of the locker room for the "majority of the 2012-2013 school year."
"Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas," ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement. "The law on this is extremely clear: school policies cannot target religious speech for exclusion. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs."
Although the school district policy states that students may not distribute religious materials before, during or after school on school grounds, Fox News' senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, also feels that the school policy violates students' rights.
"I think the school is so obviously wrong and misguided here in its efforts to maintain order by suppressing the freedom of religion," Napolitano said. "That rule is unconstitutional unless they can show that the mere distribution of the literature interferes with the mission of the school … And this school board has not been able to show any interference with the delivery of the school's mission by this young woman passing out this literature."