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ADF attorneys appeal case of student censored over religious speech

Officials prohibited fifth-grader from distributing candy-cane ornaments with Christian message
Related Case:
School Locker

CINCINNATI — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit asking the full court to review the case of a student who was censored for expressing a religious viewpoint as part of a school project.

“Christian students shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeff Shafer.  “Joel’s school project complied entirely with the standards and objectives of the assignment to which it responded.  The principal’s admitted targeting of Joel’s speech simply because of its Christian message is an affront both to his convictions and his constitutional liberties.”

In 2003, officials at Handley School in Saginaw, Mich., barred Joel Curry, a fifth-grade student, from “selling” candy cane ornaments to fellow students as part of a classroom marketing project dubbed “Classroom City.”  Curry was not permitted to participate until he agreed to remove an attached pamphlet explaining the religious symbolism of the candy cane.

ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of Curry in 2004.  In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in support of ADF’s lawsuit against the school district.

A federal judge ruled in 2006 that officials with the Saginaw School District violated Curry’s First Amendment rights.  A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit disagreed with that conclusion by the lower court in its Jan. 16 ruling.

“The panel’s ruling that religious speech by students is “offensive” and thus legitimately subject to censorship, is an astonishing departure from fundamental First Amendment principles,” said Shafer.  “We hope that the full 6th Circuit will agree to review this case in order to confirm that students cannot be singled out for discrimination based simply on the religious viewpoint of their speech.”

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

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