Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Suit Challenges School's Refusal To Install Pavers With Biblical Verses

The Desert Sands (CA) Unified School District Board in late 2009 approved a PTO fundraiser. Parents, community members and students were given the opportunity to purchase bricks and benches that would be placed permanently on the new Palm Desert High School campus. Purchasers were allowed to have brick pavers they purchased engraved with a message of their choice. However the school refused to install pavers from two donors who had Bible verses inscribed on theirs. Last Thursday the two donors filed a lawsuit challenging the refusal. The complaint (full text) in Hart v. Tomack, (CD CA, filed 1/20/2010) claims that the denial amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint-based discrimination in a designated public forum. It also alleges that the school's policy amounts to an unconstitutional prior restraint because it delegates to school officials unbridled discretion to reject religious speech by community members. It also alleges equal protection, free exercise, establishment clause and due process violations. Alliance Defense Fund issued a release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.