Saturday, February 04, 2012

Texas RFRA Claims Survive In Plano School "Candy Cane" Litigation

Yet another decision has been handed down in the 7-year litigation over Plano, Texas Independent School District rules that, among other things, prevented a student from handing out candy canes with attached religious messages. In Morgan v. Plano Independent School District, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12875 (ED TX, Feb. 1, 2012), a Texas federal magistrate judge summarized the prior history of the case:
This Court and the Fifth Circuit have upheld the 2005 policy as to its constitutionality. This Court has also upheld the facial constitutionality of the 2004 policy. The Fifth Circuit en banc has held that various administrators were entitled to qualified immunity. After seven years, the issues have narrowed. Yet, the case proceeds on with both parties having very divergent views of the law and how the law applies to the case.
In this phase of the litigation, the school board sought dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims for monetary, injunctive and declaratory relief under both the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The magistrate judge recommended dismissal of the state constitutional claims, but concluded that the school district had not met its burden under TRFRA to show a compelling interest in the manner that three children were prevented from handing out religious-themed tickets and pencils under their school's 2004 (as opposed to its 2005) policy. (See prior related posting.)