Christian students at Cumberland County High School in Pennsylvania are suing their school district for the right to distribute copies of the Bible on campus.
Members of the Christians in Action Student Club are taking their fight to court after the Mechanicsburg Area School District banned them from handing Bibles out to their fellow students in the minutes before and after classes. Their case is being handled by the Independence Law Center, which has said the school’s district’s ban in plainly unconstitutional.
“Despite what the school district has later said, the students requested permission to share Bibles at lunch and were explicitly denied the ability to do so by the principal,” Randall Wenger of the law firm said in a statement. “The principal by email told the students they are ‘not permitted to handout Bibles during the school day,’ which itself is unconstitutional.”
According to officials at the students’ school, students are only permitted to exercise their First Amendment rights for thirty minutes before and after school. As such, Principal David Harris allegedly told the students that they would not be permitted to pass out Bibles during lunch. Furthermore, the students say they were told that even in the event that they wanted to hand out Bibles after school, they would need prior authorization from the administrators.
“MASD has taken away student speech rights in the school and even seeks to regulate their speech rights during non-school hours on public sidewalks that every member of the general public possesses,” reads the lawsuit.
In a response to the initial claims against them last month, the school district told FOX43 that they were within their rights to limit free expression.
“MASD respects the rights of students to express themselves and distribute materials. MASD also recognizes that exercise of that right must be limited by the District’s responsibility to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights of all members of the school community,” the school district said.
The Independence Law Center’s Jeremy Samek, however, believes that the district has exceeded their authority.
“For some reason they believe that in order to avoid an establishment clause violation, they mistakenly believe they need to treat religion like it’s toxic, and they need to eliminate it from public school wherever they find it,” Samek told PennLive. “When you start doing that, you move from protecting the establishment clause to violating the free speech right of students.”