Poway free speech case again before 9th Circuit
ADF attorneys file opening brief challenging school’s speech policies
Monday, March 31, 2008, 8:45 AM (MST) |
ADF Media Relations | 480-444-0020
SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed their opening brief Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in a case involving the free speech rights of students. The lawsuit challenges policies within the Poway Unified School District that unconstitutionally restrict student speech.
“Christian students shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs. They have the same First Amendment rights as all other students on campus,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler. “Speech cannot be silenced simply because someone else disagrees with it or deems it to be ‘negative.’ As the Supreme Court has stated, students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
In 2004, then-sophomore Chase Harper wore a T-shirt to school expressing a biblical viewpoint on homosexual behavior during the school’s “Day of Silence,” an event sponsored by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.
A school official ordered Harper to remove the shirt, but he respectfully declined to do so. Instead, he was forced to sit in the office for the remainder of the school day, was subjected to “counseling” by school officials, and was interrogated by a deputy sheriff who took photographs of him. A school administrator told Harper he should “leave his faith in the car” because it might be offensive to others.
The 9th Circuit initially ruled that the school may have been justified in censoring Chase, but in March 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision (www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=4027). Now Chase and his sister, Kelsie, are returning to the 9th Circuit to challenge the school’s policies because they prohibit students from expressing any religious beliefs that might be seen as “negative” or “offensive” to others.
A copy of the opening brief filed in the 9th Circuit in Harper v. Poway Unified School District can be read at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/HarperBrief.pdf.
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.