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Despite settlement, Fla. school district again denies church access to flier program

Letter from ADF convinces school board to reverse course

NAPLES, Fla. — The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter to the attorney for the Collier County School Board Tuesday after it violated a legal settlement by again refusing to allow a church to participate in the school district’s flier distribution program. After receiving the letter, the attorney said the school board would reverse its decision.

ADF filed suit against the district last year on behalf of a local church barred from participating in the program, which allows community groups to send home written materials with students.  ADF attorneys agreed to dismiss the lawsuit when school officials agreed to change the policy.

“Churches shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs--and especially not after a legal settlement that was supposed to prevent it from happening again,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman.  “By continuing to enforce the old policy and refusing the honor the settlement it agreed to, the school district was continuing to violate the First Amendment rights of religious groups. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure the district does the right thing here.”

In January 2009, ADF attorneys filed suit against the district after they refused to allow Cypress Wood Presbyterian Church to advertise an upcoming Vacation Bible School.  As part of the flier distribution program, the district allows other non-religious community groups to distribute materials to students.

With the situation legally resolved, the pastor of Cypress Wood Presbyterian Church submitted a request to include a flier for its Easter worship service in the distribution program. The district denied the request, saying the flier has a “clear religious message which would entangle the district in religion in violation of the First Amendment.”

ADF attorneys then discovered that Policy 9700(C)(5)(b) & (d), the problematic policy concerning flier distribution that the school board had agreed to abandon, was still posted on the district’s Web site. Counsel for the school district responded immediately to the ADF letter saying that failing to remove the old policy from the Web site was an oversight but that the school district did indeed refuse to include the church’s Easter flier for the reasons it stated; however, he said the decision will be reversed and the church’s flier will be approved.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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David Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.