Florida School District Sued for Barring Bible Distribution

by | Jul 1, 2010 | Charisma Archive

A Christian legal firm is suing a
southwest Florida school district that prohibited Bible distribution on public
school campuses.

Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of World Changers of Florida challenging the Collier County school district’s decision to prohibit the Naples, Fla.-based ministry from passing out free Bibles on Religious Freedom Day, which is recognized Jan. 16.

The Bibles were distributed for two years without incident
to interested students outside school hours. The group included a disclaimer
stating that the school neither sponsored nor endorsed the Bible giveaway.

But in 2008, the district revised its policy to require
nonprofit organizations to obtain approval of the superintendent and a
Community Request Committee appointed by the superintendent in order to
distribute literature on school campuses.

The
policy also states that requests must be “carefully reviewed to ensure that
such activities promote student interests, provide educational benefit to the
students, and do not exploit the school system, its employees, students or
parents,” according to the lawsuit.

Liberty
Counsel said other nonprofit groups have been allowed to distribute literature on
campuses, including military recruiters, a Little League organization,
and local Humane Society, 4H and YMCA groups. The lawsuit claims World Changers
was denied its distribution request because the district wants to censor its
message.

The
school district “denied World Changers access for no other reason than the
religious content and viewpoint of the literature it wishes to distribute,
specifically Bibles,” the lawsuit states. “This unequal treatment, based upon
the religious nature of the literature World Changers wishes to distribute, is
unconstitutional content-based discrimination, because World Changers’
materials otherwise fit within the parameters [the district] set for the
forum.”

Liberty Counsel argues that the
First Amendment prohibits government religious speech, not private religious
speech or literature.

“How sad that on the eve of
Independence Day, when we celebrate the religious and political freedom our
forefathers won for us at the cost of much blood and great sacrifice, we are
compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to
students in public schools,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel
and dean of Liberty University School of Law. “Many of our Founding Fathers
were taught to read using the Bible. If it had no educational value, then many
of them would have been illiterate.”

World Changers is
seeking permission to distribute Bibles and
nominal damages, which include attorneys’ fees.

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