We were contacted in early March by the parents of a fourth grade student in Hawaii regarding a local school’s policy that discriminated against religious speech. The School invited parents to include messages to their students in the upcoming school yearbook. When the parents’ message to their student included an encouraging scripture quote, however, the school notified the parents that while the message would be included, the school would censor the encouraging scripture quote.
The parents contacted ACLJ attorneys who were able to provide the parents with information regarding the First Amendment and their free speech rights. The ACLJ has represented and assisted numerous clients dealing with similar situations over the past quarter century where schools have attempted to treat religious speech as less favored than other speech. In several of these cases, ACLJ attorneys argued on behalf of our clients before the Supreme Court including Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993), in which the Court affirmed that a school may not discriminate against religious speech on the basis of the speech’s religious viewpoint, and Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990), in which the Court held that allowing a student Bible club to meet on a public school’s campus did not violate the Establishment Clause.
In this case, ACLJ attorneys were able to guide the parents and provide information to appeal the initial decision to the school principal. The outcome was favorable, and we just received word that the principal has agreed with the parent’s appeal and will allow the parents to include an encouraging religious message from them to their student in the yearbook.
We are pleased with this outcome and will continue working to protect the rights of religious individuals to speak out on an equal basis and to be free from government discrimination against religious speech.