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Supreme Court of the United States

In Michigan, Educators Are Re-Introduced to an Old School of Thought

By Alan Sears posted on:
October 17, 2017

It really is amazing how pervasive ignorance is in our tax-funded public schools, when it comes to the meaning of the liberty that is protected by the First Amendment.

ClassroomIn Holly, Michigan, a young student at Patterson Elementary noticed that his classmates placed invitations to birthday parties and other events in the cubbyholes reserved for such announcements.  His church was offering a summer camp for youth, so his mother gave him some flyers inviting his friends and classmates to participate.

A teacher saw the boy putting the flyers in the cubbyholes, and told him that church-related materials could not be distributed at a public school.  The teacher then removed all the flyers, ordered the boy to place them in his backpack, and reported the incident to the principal … who, when contacted by the boy’s mother, reminded her that the so-called “separation of church and state” prohibited any handing out of church information on school property.

The mother asked if she and her son might send the flyers home, then, with the students – the same way information and announcements for all the other community clubs and organizations – Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, summer camps – were sent home.  No, the principal told her – the same church/state prohibitions applied.  The mom then contacted the district superintendent, who affirmed the principal’s position.

After months of attempting to resolve the problem with the district, our attorneys filed a lawsuit on the family’s behalf against the Holly Area School District.  On October 26, a federal court ruled that the district’s ban against the distribution of religious materials violated both the student’s and his mother’s First Amendment-protected rights.

The judge also ordered the district to stop enforcing its ban against students handing out flyers, stating that “such a blanket prohibition upon a student’s distribution of materials on the basis of religious viewpoint is not constitutionally permissible.”  Nor, the judge said, could the district deny the mother’s request to send flyers home with students – “on the sole ground that she seeks to distribute materials promoting religious activities” – while still allowing other community groups to distribute flyers for their events.

“Christians shouldn’t be discriminated against and silenced because of their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman.

“When the speech of students and community groups are allowed free reign, while those with a religious affiliation are censored, we have a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matthew Sharp.  “Churches should have no less of a voice than any other groups that benefit the community.”

Joel J. Kirkpatrick of Farmington Hills, Michigan, one of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance, served as local counsel in this case.  Please be in prayer for him and for all of our attorneys, as they continue their faithful, diligent efforts to help educators nationwide understand the full meaning of the First Amendment.  Holding the line in these cases is critical to preserve what America was meant to be.

Alan Sears

Alan Sears


Alan Sears served as founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, building on his experience as longtime leader of the organization to strengthen alliances, forge new relationships, and develop ADF resources.

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