The Huntington Beach City School District in California has settled a lawsuit over its free speech policy concerning discussions of religion and passing out fliers on public school campuses.
The annual nationwide event known as Bring Your Bible to School Day (BYBTSD), held each October, is sponsored by Focus on the Family. As the title suggests, each year students are encourage to live out their faith by bringing their Bibles to school and talking to their friends about Jesus. Students can download fliers promoting the event and share with friends during free time or post them on school billboards in accordance with school guidelines. The idea is to be respectful, participating and engaging in dialogue without disrupting classroom time.
In the case of Huntington Beach fifth-grader Micah Bausch and his second-grade brother Nieka, there was some initial push-back from their school to their request to post fliers promoting last year’s BYBTSD. The school cited the religious nature of the fliers in initially denying the request. The confusion was only partially cleared up later by school officials, but the district’s vague written policies concerning free speech were left intact.
Some public schools—like Hunting Beach City School District—don’t understand that when you create an avenue for student expression, whether through speaking, handing out fliers, holding small group discussions, or reading a book, the First Amendment requires a level playing field for all speech, including religious speech. Such schools wrongly believe that the First Amendment requires them to censor religious speech out of a misguided concern over the “separation of church and state.”
Last January, Micah and Nieka’s family filed a lawsuit to ensure that the policy was changed to specifically include protections for religious speech. With this settlement, the policy has been officially revised.
The resolution of this lawsuit provides an object lesson for Christian families with children in public schools.
“Thanks to the courage of one California family, thousands more kids who walk through those school doors in the future will now have stronger and more protected freedoms to express their faith without intimidation,” said Candi Cushman, director of education issues at Focus on the Family. “These two little elementary school age boys who participated in Bring Your Bible to School Day have set a religious-freedom precedent that will impact their school for years to come. It’s a great reminder of the power of one person—and one family to make a difference!”
Cushman is encouraging participation in this year’s upcoming event: “If you haven’t yet, I encourage students and families to learn how they can join the Bring Your Bible to School Day movement—coming up Thursday, Oct. 3!”
Learn more at BringYourBible.org