A federal judge in Ohio gave a group of Christian parents out in Cleveland a little bit of Christmas in July – but there turned out to be a big lump of coal in the stockings.
Last year, during the holidays, a group of mothers in the Garfield Heights area of Cleveland put together some flyers inviting students to an “After-School Christmas Story Hour” at a church down the street. The principal of Maple Leaf Intermediate School banned the flyers – even though announcements for other activities (a Halloween party, a soccer program, Boy Scouts, an American Heart Association event) were welcomed. The principal said a new district policy banned religious flyers.
The Christian group took its complaint to the district superintendent, who – while acknowledging that their flyers were being treated differently than others – backed up the principal, citing the so-called “laws of separation between church and state.” She invited the group to instead place its flyers in the school’s office … where any child who happened to wander through looking for a flyer announcing afterschool activities would be sure to find them, probably.
On behalf of the parents, ADF filed suit in federal court last April against the Garfield Heights Board of Education. Faced with that suit, the board agreed to change several policies and lift the ban on religious flyers. However … rather than allow the religious flyers to be sent home with students as ADF specifically requested, the board decided that no outside community groups would be allowed to distribute flyers in classrooms. Instead, every group would be allowed to place no more than 25 flyers for their event in the school office – a place most students studiously avoid unless ordered to go there.
Once before the court, the school recognized that it had done wrong, but decided that, rather than allow all flyers to be distributed, it would be easier just to hurt everybody. (Evidently, their opposition to the story hour flyers was motivated by something more than the so-called “separation of church and state.”)
“Christian community members shouldn’t have their free speech discriminated against on public school campuses,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The board has done the right thing in rectifying that particular legal problem, but it’s thoroughly disappointing to see them needlessly gut the flyer program so that no group’s invitations are communicated effectively.”
ADF is grateful to Kurt D. Anderson of Elyria, who served as local counsel in the lawsuit. Please be in prayer for Mr. Anderson, and for the 2,000 other attorneys in the ADF alliance who are working diligently, coast to coast, to defend the constitutionally protected rights of Christians seeking to hear and speak the truth.