Nevada Church Mulling Legal Action After School District Bars Flyers

A Nevada school district's recent decision to prohibit all backpack flyers from external organizations is leading a local church to consider legal action.

The Lyon County School District Board voted on Dec. 19 to suspend flyer distribution by external organizations including Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley Church.

Stephanie Taub, counsel with the First Liberty Institute, which is representing the church, told The Christian Post on Monday that they are "considering all legal options."

"Instead of treating all flyers neutrally as is required by federal law, the school district decided to end its flyer distribution program altogether since they could not censor the religious language in Calvary Chapel's flyers," said Taub.

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(Photo: Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley)A backpack flyer from Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley Church of Nevada that was rejected by Lyon County School District.

"Unless the community convinces the elected school board otherwise, it will prevent all community information from going home to the parents of this community."

According to Taub, the issues began last year when the school district began to censor Calvary Chapel's flyers, despite not doing the same for secular external groups.

"For instance, flyers about Halloween parties were distributed whereas the church's Harvest party flyer was censored because it had 3 crosses pictured in the background. This is religious discrimination," explained Taub.

"School districts are required to remain neutral toward the viewpoint of community organizations, like Calvary Chapel, and the First Amendment prohibits schools from censoring their speech just because they disagree with their religious point of view."

For the past several years, Lyon County has allowed various organizations to have flyers sent home with students in their backpacks, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"Flyers were submitted to schools, principals reviewed them and they were sent home along with school announcements and homework in student backpacks," reported the Journal on Sunday.

"The evangelical Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley church has taken advantage of the program, sending home flyers advertising events such as youth nights, outdoor adventures and a summer lunch program ..."

Last summer, the school board amended the flyer policy to make the flyers a "limited public forum" and barred flyers that promoted specific religious beliefs.

Lyon County School District Spokeswoman Erika Garcia directed CP to an official statement the school district sent out last month arguing that the vote is the "least litigious" option regarding the flyer debate.

"If the school district attempts to reduce their liability by what may be perceived as limiting the promotion or establishment of religion, then religious organizations may attempt legal action for a violation of the First Amendment," read the statement in part. 

"If the school district attempts to reduce their liability by allowing what may be perceived as the promotion or establishment of religion, then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a private citizen or other group may attempt legal action for a violation of the First Amendment."

Garcia told CP that the December decision involved the school district addressing "the complexity of the First Amendment facing both parties."

"This public service of distributing flyers and announcements by external organizations was a limited public forum created within the schools, which differs from a public forum," explained Garcia.

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