TULSA, Okla. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing a community-led Christian club for students filed suit Monday against an Oklahoma school district after it revoked the club’s ability to publicize its events as other community groups are allowed to do and discouraged the club from promoting itself anywhere in the community, including through the media.
Owasso Public Schools rescinded the “Kids for Christ” club’s ability to promote its activities through fliers, announcements, signs, “open houses,” and other methods at Northeast Elementary School on the grounds that the club, which meets outside of class time, is religious; however, the district continues to allow other groups--including the Boy Scouts, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and businesses like Baja Jack’s Burrito Shack--to promote their activities through such means.
“A Christian organization should not be targeted for discrimination when it is simply seeking to publicize its voluntary meetings just like other community groups do,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp. “The district would have people believe that the Constitution requires a religious organization to be singled out in this manner when, in reality, the Constitution strictly prohibits this type of discrimination. The courts have repeatedly upheld this.”
The federal lawsuit, Owasso Kids for Christ v. Owasso Public Schools, challenges the policy concerning approved campus communications that the district cited as justification for its ban. The policy states, “No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones which may be beneficial to any particular group or business at the expense of others.”
In addition to implementing the ban, District Superintendent Clark Ogilvie also discouraged the more-than-100-member club from publicizing its activities in the larger Owasso community through signs and banners and through local media and advertising outlets because he said he believed such publicity would “stir up trouble.”
Despite the district’s stated concern about the religious mission of the club--which holds voluntary Bible studies before school and sponsors games, dances, and other social events for students and their parents--the district routinely allows communications by other community-led organizations that teach lessons on character and morality, including lessons from a religious perspective. Those groups include the Boy Scouts and the YMCA, which stated its mission on one of its recent fliers: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.” The district approved the fliers.
“Just as it rightly allowed the YMCA’s flier, the district must allow the ‘Kids for Christ’ club’s fliers and other activity announcements,” Sharp explained. “The district is very clearly wrong in its view of the First Amendment.”
Richard White, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is local counsel in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
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.