School District Sued After Denying Fourth Grader The Right To Distribute Religious Literature

Oct 28, 2004

Syracuse, NY - Michaela Bloodgood, a fourth grader at Nate Perry Elementary School in Liverpool, NY, filed suit against the Liverpool Central School District after the District refused to grant her request to distribute literature with a religious message during non-instructional time. The lawsuit charges the District with violating Michaela's right to free speech, free exercise, and equal protection. Michaela is represented by Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, Erik Stanley, and Rena Lindevaldsen. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious liberties, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values.

Michaela has received literature from other students at school, including literature concerning a YMCA basketball camp, Syracuse Children's Theater promotion of the show "Dragon Slayers" and the Camp Fire USA's summer camps. But, when she wanted to distribute a "Personal Statement" flyer that she created to her friends and classmates during non-instructional time, she was told she could not do so because of the message.

The flyer stated: "Hi! My name is Michaela and I would like to tell you about my life and how Jesus Christ gave me a new one. I asked Him to come into my heart and save me from my sins. This is what He has done for me. 1) Jesus Christ helped my parents decide to get remarried in November and then I will get to see my Dad everyday. 2) He helped me memorize Bible verses and say them in front of my church. 3) He helped me learn piano and play psalms and hymns and sing with grace in my heart to the Lord. 4) God cared enough for me that He gave me victory over thinking about something bad that happened to me. 5) Now that I am saved, God gave me peace in my heart and the truth that I am going to heaven instead of the other place. Praise the Lord." The School District told Michaela that because her flyer was religious, she could not distribute it as parents and students may misunderstand that the District was "endorsing" the religious statements in the flyer.

Mat Staver commented, "This is nothing less than viewpoint discrimination. The idea that people would think the District was 'endorsing' Michaela's statements is simply absurd. Schools do not endorse everything they allow students to distribute." Staver continued, "Religious speech is constitutionally protected even in the public schools. School officials had no right to single out Michaela's religious literature for disfavored treatment." Staver concluded, "Michaela was simply attempting to express to her friends what God has done in her life. She has every right to express her religious views in this way, and we intend to protect her rights."