Candy cane case goes to Supreme Court
    August 13 2008 by LaNia Coleman, Religion News Service

    The U.S. Supreme Court was asked Aug. 11 to consider whether a fifth-grade student's religious expression on a classroom project can be considered "offensive" and subject to censorship by school officials.

    In December 2003, Joel Curry, then 11, made candy cane-style Christmas ornaments with a note that school officials considered "religious literature." The note attached to the ornaments, titled "The Meaning of the Candy Cane," referred to Jesus six times and God twice.

    Curry, who copied the message from an ornament at a Christian bookstore, is now a rising sophomore at Heritage High School in Saginaw, Mich.

    "It's unfortunate it has to be pushed this far," said his father, Paul Curry. "When children step out in the world, they have to deal with different faiths and religions. It's a good way for teachers to educate students as long as no one is proselytizing or pushing it down someone's throat."

    At the time, the boy made the ornaments as part of a classroom project in which students develop and "sell" products. School officials told the youngster to remove the message, even though he received an A on the assignment.

    Attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Saginaw School District and the school's principal in 2004, 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, the senior legal counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which petitioned the high court to hear the case.

    "The First Amendment exists to protect private speakers, not to enable religious discrimination by government officials. The court of appeals' unprecedented classification of student religious speech as an `offense' worthy of censorship should be reversed."

    8/13/2008 2:07:00 AM by LaNia Coleman, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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