BEAUMONT, Texas — A third-grade student will be allowed to distribute Bible club invitations outside of class time in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys against the Nederland Independent School District in April. The district changed its policy so that students are allowed to distribute private religious material on the same terms as non-religious material.
ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit Friday in light of the policy change and the district’s decision to provide training to all administrators on the constitutionally protected rights of students to engage in religious expression at school.
“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp. “We commend the school district’s decision to respect this third-grader’s constitutionally protected right to hand invitations to his fellow classmates during non-instructional time as other students have been allowed to do.”
A teacher had denied the Hillcrest Elementary School student permission to invite classmates to an AWANA (“Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed”) club meeting at a local church that would include games and hearing a Bible story. Other students were freely permitted to distribute invitations for events such as birthday parties.
The ADF lawsuit prompted the school district to revise its policy on the distribution of materials so that it now states, “The District shall not discriminate based on the viewpoint, whether religious or non-religious, expressed in private, student-to-student, non-disruptive speech.”
Houston attorney G. Scott Fiddler, one of more than 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, served as local counsel in the lawsuit, N.M. v. Nederland Independent School District, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division.
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.