PENNSYLVANIA — Alliance Defending Freedom sent nearly 300 school districts in Pennsylvania a letter Friday explaining that their speech policies fall short of a March federal appeals court ruling.
The ruling, which came in an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed on behalf of a student in northeastern Pennsylvania, found two Pocono Mountain School District policies unconstitutional after they were used to prevent a 5th-grade student from distributing invitations to a Christmas party at her church.
“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The speech and literature distribution policies of many school districts in Pennsylvania are virtually identical to the one the 3rd Circuit struck down. These policies violate the First Amendment right of students to distribute religious materials at school.”
As the Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.’” Moreover, the letter states, “The Supreme Court has definitively held that religious expression--whether spoken, written, or symbolic--is protected by the First Amendment.”
The letter also notes that students “have a First Amendment right to distribute materials at school.” The Constitution prohibits school officials from using their own unbridled discretion in banning speech they disagree with.
“America’s public schools should recognize the constitutionally protected freedom of all students, regardless of their religious views,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope that school districts in Pennsylvania will respect these freedoms and revise their policies accordingly.”
- Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.