The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to consider whether a Michigan fifth-grader’s religious expression in a school project can be considered “offensive” and subject to censorship by school officials.
In 2003, Joel Curry, then 11, made candy-cane-style Christmas ornaments with a note attached titled “The Meaning of the Candy Cane.” It referred to Jesus six times and to God twice. School officials considered that “religious literature.”
The boy made the ornament as part of an assignment. He was told to remove the message, even though he received an A.
A lawsuit was filed against the Saginaw School District and the school principal, arguing that school officials violated the boy’s right to equal protection because students previously had been allowed to sell religious-themed items. In 2005, a federal judge ruled in favor of the boy, but a three-judge panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that decision.
The new suit seeks reimbursement of legal fees and clarification of the district’s policy on religious speech.
“Penalizing Christian students for expressing their beliefs in the classroom is unacceptable under the Constitution,” said Jeff Shafer, senior legal counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which petitioned the high court to hear the case. (RNS)