School Officials Sued After Confiscating Students Invitations To After-School Church Event

Jan 12, 2004

FT. LAUDERDALE – Friday, Christine Curran and her father John Curran filed a federal lawsuit against the Broward County School District after Christine was denied the right to distribute to her fellow classmates an invitation to a meeting at her church. Christine is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Erik Stanley, Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel is a civil liberties legal defense and education organization headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

While Christine was a student at Driftwood Middle School in Hollywood, Florida, she took a flyer to school one day to pass out to her friends and other students. The flyer was an invitation to hear a Christian youth speaker at her church. As Christine was going to her third-hour class, a teacher saw her handing out the flyers in the hallway between classes. The teacher confiscated the flyers and told Christine that she could not distribute the flyers until she complied with District Procedure and that if she continued to distribute the flyers, she would be “written up”.

The school district’s Policy requires all students to submit literature to a school administrator before they will be allowed to distribute the literature. The Policy states, “Approval must be obtained from a school administrator prior to handing out or posting materials, including petitions and surveys; printing any school publications; collecting money or selling advertisements for school publications; and/or distributing any commercial, political, or religious material on school grounds.” If the literature at issue does not fall within the list contained in the Policy, it can be distributed without prior permission. The Policy requires that religious material, however, must always be submitted for prior review by school administrators. The Policy lacks guidelines, and thus allows blatant censorship of religious viewpoints.

Mat Staver stated, “The school district’s policy is clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that government may not treat religious literature differently from other literature simply because it is religious. That is what the district has done in this case.” Staver also stated, “Students do have the right to distribute religious literature in the public schools and have the right to be free from discrimination that is based upon the content of the literature they are distributing.” Staver concluded, “Christine should never have been told that she must comply with this unconstitutional Policy before she can exercise her constitutional rights. The school district must learn that religious speech and literature are highly protected forms of speech. Perhaps it is time for the school district to go back to school and learn about the First Amendment.”