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Home run for church seeking fair treatment for advertising on school athletic field

North Carolina school district agrees to settle case after failing multiple times to obtain dismissal in court
Published On: 10/18/2017

NEWTON, N.C.—The Catawba County School District today settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Oxford Baptist Church after the district prevented it from displaying a Bible verse on an athletic field sign.

“The school district did the right thing in settling the case now,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the church.  “The district has covered the church’s legal costs, and both sides now agree on the legal principles that regulate equal access to school property for community groups.”

The church filed suit September 20, 2002, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina for violation of its First Amendment rights.  The school district allowed school supporters—tire dealers, security companies, and other churches—to purchase advertising on signs at River Bend Middle School’s athletic field.  However, the school refused to display Oxford Baptist Church’s sign unless they left off a Bible verse, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

After three attempts to have the suit dismissed failed, the school board decided to settle the case.

“It is important that school boards recognize the First Amendment rights of the community when they invite members of it on to school property,” McCaleb said.  “Government officials may not exclude groups from these types of programs merely because the group speaks from a religious viewpoint.”

ADF has successfully defended the religious expression rights of numerous churches, religious organizations, and students when public schools have denied them equal treatment under the law.

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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