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ADF to full 5th Circuit: ‘Jesus Tattoo’ ad is protected free speech

Texas school district refused Christian ad on Jumbotron
School Locker

NEW ORLEANS – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Friday to hear the case of a faith-based business prohibited from advertising on a Texas school district’s Jumbotron during football games because the ad is too religious in nature.

On March 13, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld a district court’s decision that allowed Lubbock Independent School District to deny the ad for because of its religious message even though it permits other non-school-related businesses and organizations, including other faith-based groups, to advertise.

“Public school districts should not be in the business of picking and choosing which messages will get ad space based on the views the district prefers,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “No district can legally say that some groups can advertise while this one can’t simply because the ad is too religious – especially when the district has already allowed the religious messages of other groups. The First Amendment does not allow the government to engage in that kind of censorship.”

In October of last year, Lubbock Independent School District denied the ad request from David L. Miller, founder of Little Pencil, LLC, a business that promotes the Bible’s teachings through contemporary marketing campaigns. The ad consists of the website address “” and an image of Jesus Christ with allegorical tattoos that represent the sins he bore on the cross. The site features a video that shows struggling individuals going to Jesus for help. Jesus changes their negative tattoos, which represent their struggles, into positive ones. The end of the video shows Jesus bearing their tattoos as a sign that he has taken on their struggles.

The district explained to ADF attorneys that it denied Miller’s request because it “is prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property based on the Establishment Clause.” Despite the explanation, the district routinely permits various other faith-based, non-school-related organizations to advertise, such as Full Armor Ministries, Lubbock Christian University, Sunset Church of Christ’s Just Kids Preschool, and Bethany Baptist Church. It also allows numerous non-religious, non-school-related business and organizations to advertise.

“The government has no legitimate role policing the advertising marketplace and excluding certain faith-based organizations because of their message,” added ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We are asking the full 5th Circuit to hear this case and affirm the constitutionally protected freedoms of all Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs.”

Attorney Robert Hogan, one of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF, is local counsel in the case, Little Pencil v. Lubbock Independent School District.

  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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