Lawyers intervened on behalf of a local church after a Nevada school district barred them from distributing flyers because the flyers were too religious.
Chapel Dayton Valley participated for years without trouble in a community flyer distribution program run by the Lyon County School District, until the school district changed its policy regarding flyers in 2017, according to religious liberty legal organization First Liberty. Lawyers from First Liberty and Michigan-based law firm Lipson Neilson sent a letter to the school district Thursday demanding that the policy, which bars flyers with any speech deemed religious, be reversed on the grounds that it violates the first amendment.
“A lot of times schools are misinformed about what the law is and they think it requires them to be hostile toward religion, whereas actually it just requires them to be neutral and not take sides” Stephanie Taub, counsel for First Liberty, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And that’s what our client is asking for – just to be treated like everybody else.”
The school district refused to distribute flyers for several church events to their students, because the flyers contained language like “devotional” and “worship music,” Taub told TheDCNF.
A parent complained about the church flyers the school distributed and prompted the deputy superintendent to send an email during the spring 2017 semester to all of the principles in the district instructing them not to distribute any religious flyers. The school district then approved a policy change in June that officially barred religious speech from inclusion in any flyers the school distributes.
Dennis Hubbard, assistant pastor of Calvary Chapel, emailed Leslie Peters, the principal of Dayton Elementary School, on July 11 to inquire about two flyers the church had submitted July 2.
The change in policy was approved in the prior month, Peters responded July 31, explaining that while one of the flyers advertising a charitable food drive was acceptable, the other advertising a youth night was not because it “had some language that talked about live worship music, devotional and good news.”
“Not only is this practice unconstitutional, it defeats the very purpose of providing community information,” said Amber Williams, associate attorney with Lipson Neilson, in a statement emailed to TheDCNF. “By removing all religious references from the flyers, parents and students have no way of knowing about the nature of the events and cannot make informed decisions about whether to attend.”
The attorneys gave the school district two weeks to reply to the letter. Representatives of the school district have not yet responded.
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