Jacob Smith, a student at Patterson Elementary, discovered a surprising response to an innocuous invitation inviting his classmates to attend a religious youth camp sponsored by his church. Jacob and his mother prepared a letter describing the camp, how “the kids get a Bible lesson that they can tie into their real lives, learn new songs, and make a craft tying it all together.” The letter was placed in a sealed envelope, and Jacob left for school with a stack of them to place in his classmates’ cubbyholes.
Flyers for Girl Scouts, 4-H, Reptile Camp, and Lego Robotics Camp were welcome at school. But church youth summer camp flyers were not. Jacob’s teacher made him collect all the invitations and put them in his backpack, causing him to feel that he had done something wrong. Jacob later learned that under the school’s policy, “[d]istributing religious invitations/materials/explanations within the elementary school day is not appropriate.”
Jacob and his mother, Katharine, contacted Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit claiming that the school violated Jacob’s constitutional right as a student to distribute literature at school and violated Katharine’s rights to distribute literature on equal terms with other community members. The court agreed and ordered the school to stop enforcing its ban against students handing out religious flyers. The court further ruled that the school could not deny the mother’s request to send religious flyers home with students while permitting other community members to distribute flyers advertising their events. Because Jacob and Katharine had the courage to speak up, they won a great victory not only for students, but for churches, religious groups, and community members to have their religious speech and flyers treated equally by schools.