Fed Court: Schools Must Remain Neutral in Matters of Religion

A federal court in New York state has held that a school district violated the constitutional rights of a fourth grader who attempted to distributed fliers about Jesus. The student sought school permission to distribute the fliers on non-instructional time (such as during lunch, on the bus, at recess, etc.).

The district had allowed other students and other groups to distribute materials during that time but feared that the other students and parents would view this flier as having been endorsed by the school.

The Court pointed out, however, that the district was required to remain neutral and, since it had allowed other groups to distribute the fliers, the school could not limit these fliers simply on the basis of their content. The case illustrates that school districts must be careful to maintain neutrality. More importantly, though, it demonstrates that districts must rely on their solicitors, since the effort to avoid one possible problem (being seen as endorsing religion) can cause the district to create others (preventing free expression).

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