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LAUSD allows Christian 5th-grade student in talent show same day ADF files for temporary restraining order

ADF attorneys move forward with lawsuit to make sure district doesn’t exclude, censor religious content in future school-related student activities
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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced Tuesday that they will no longer prohibit a 5th-grade student from performing to a Christian song at a Feb. 4 elementary school talent show. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys had filed a request for a temporary restraining order earlier in the day against the district, following their filing of a lawsuit against district officials on Friday. 

The principal of Superior Street Elementary School had told the student’s mother that the song “We Shine” was “offensive,” allegedly violated the so-called “separation of church and state,” and suggested that her child pick a song that “does not say ‘Jesus’ so many times.”  The Christian song discussed themes similar to other accepted songs, some of which contained mature content.

“Christian students shouldn’t be censored at public elementary schools because district officials think that religious speech may be offensive, which isn’t justified by the Constitution” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The LAUSD did the right thing by recognizing the student’s constitutional rights and lifting its censorship of religious speech at the talent show.”

Several days after a January audition for the annual Superior Street Elementary School Talent Show--which had no content restrictions on the songs, dances, or other talents that the elementary students were permitted to perform--the mother was told by SSES Principal Jerilyn Schubert that her child was not permitted to perform to the song “We Shine” because of its religious message, which she considered to be “offensive” and a violation of the “separation of church and state.” 

The concerned parent replied to Schubert by explaining that the song represents her child--who personally selected the song and practiced for months--and not the school, and that there were no restrictions on what students could perform in the show.  Schubert then asserted that other students performing songs with profane and vulgar lyrics were also told to select different songs… in essence equating religious lyrics with profanity and vulgarity. The principal went on to ask the mother why her child couldn’t “pick a song that does not say ‘Jesus’ so many times?”

Before the lawsuit, officials approved the following songs for the show: “Freak the Freak Out,” focusing on relationship problems, “Shake It Up,” with the theme of dancing and celebrating, and “Eye of the Tiger,” with lyrics stating that “we kill with the skill to survive.” Students are not required to attend the talent show, which invites the community and is being performed in the evening. 

Daniel R. Watkins of Newport Beach, one of nearly 1,900 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit B.H. v. Garcia, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division- Los Angeles.

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.