A civil rights lawsuit was filed in federal court earlier this week by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) on behalf of a Lubbock, Texas, man who's accusing the city's largest school district of allegedly violating his right of free speech after they refused to display an ad showing a tattooed Jesus on a jumbotron during high school football games.
Lubbock Independent School District denied the ad request in October from David L. Miller, founder of Little Pencil LLC, an organization that promotes the Bible's teachings through marketing campaigns, even though ADF says the district allows other religious groups to advertise.
"No one deserves to be silenced simply for having a viewpoint that school officials don't favor," said Jeremy Tedesco, ADF senior legal counsel. "When a school creates an opportunity for community advertising, it cannot single out religious messages for censorship. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their religious or political beliefs."
The lawsuit, Little Pencil v. Lubbock Independent School District, argues that "the government may not discriminate against private speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum in question."
However, the school district claims that it denied Miller's request because by their own policies and practices they are prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property, based on the Establishment Clause.
"Christians should not be prevented from expressing their beliefs in public venues," said Matt Sharp, ADF legal counsel. "We hope that Lubbock Independent School District will revise its policy so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms."
According to Berhl Robertson, Lubbock ISD superintendent, the district was not aware of the lawsuit.
"We cannot comment on potential pending litigation, but we would always prefer to spend tax dollars in classrooms rather than courtrooms," said Robertson.
The ad is part of the JesusTattoo.org campaign, which depicts the image of Jesus Christ clad in tattoos with the words "addicted" and "depressed," among other negative descriptions. The idea behind the campaign is to share Jesus' love and make it known that it can change people despite their labels.
The movement's website, jesustattoo.org, features a video in which a man resembling Jesus acts as a tattoo artist in a basement. During the video, people from all walks of life enter the room expecting him to remove their tattoos that include words that describe their situations as helpless individuals. He then takes to their forearms and wrists and replaces their original markings with words like, "accepted," "brave" and "humble."
Last year, JesusTattoo.org erected 59 billboards for a 30-day campaign throughout Lubbock.