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'Good News' silenced at Ariz. school district

ADF files suit for censoring Christian club’s flier as too ‘religious’
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PHOENIX — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit in federal court Thursday against the Dysart Unified School District for prohibiting a flier for a Christian club while allowing fliers for a wide variety of other community organizations.

The district denied the invitation and permission slip for after-school meetings of the Good News Club under a policy that prohibits the distribution of literature of a “religious nature.” Numerous federal court decisions around the country have declared such policies unconstitutional because they censor fliers based solely on their religious viewpoint.

“The fliers of Christian groups shouldn’t be banned while other groups can freely invite students to their meetings and activities. That’s the position of numerous federal court rulings, and Dysart’s flier policies fit the mold of those that have been declared unconstitutional,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.

The district permits non-profit organizations, community groups, and government agencies to promote their cultural, recreational, artistic, civic, and educational events and meetings through the distribution of fliers within district schools. The district has approved fliers for a wide variety of community groups, including the Boy Scouts, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Interfaith Community Care, Sun City Area Interfaith Services, Salvation Army Sun City Corps, Valley of the Sun United Way, and a number of local governments.

In October, Child Evangelism Fellowship Phoenix submitted a completed Flier Approval Request Form and sample flier to the district’s community specialist to advertise a new Good News Club that meets after school at West Point Elementary School in the Phoenix suburb of Surprise. Although the flier contained a disclaimer that said the district does not endorse or sponsor the club or its activities, the district rejected the flier on the grounds that it is “against district policy” because the program being promoted is “religious in nature.”

“That’s precisely what the government is not permitted to do under the First Amendment,” Tedesco explained. “The courts have repeatedly ruled that fliers for religious events cannot be censored in this manner, especially while fliers for other types of events are being allowed. Discrimination based on viewpoint is simply not allowed under the U.S. Constitution.”

Attorneys with the Center for Arizona Policy are serving as co-counsel in the case, Child Evangelism Fellowship Phoenix v. Dysart Unified School District, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

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

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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