ACLU Supports Right of Iowa Students to Distribute Christian Literature at School

July 11, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DES MOINES--The Iowa Civil Liberties Union today announced that it is publicly supporting the Christian students who recently filed a lawsuit against the Davenport Schools asserting the right to distribute religious literature during non-instructional time.

""The school's policy against the distribution of religious literature outside of class is clearly wrong,"" said Ben Stone, Executive Director of the ICLU. ""Not only does the policy violate the students' right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, but it also infringes on their free speech rights," he said. 

The case, brought by Davenport students Sasha and Jaron Dean and Becky Swope, was filed in federal court on May 31, 2002. The ICLU said it plans to file a "friend-of the-court" brief in support of the Christian students. 

According to the ICLU, the literature ban could be an example of poorly informed school officials acting out of ignorance. "Once in a while, we hear of schools taking away a kid's Bible at school or not letting students say grace before lunch,"" Stone said. ""Such restrictions are dead wrong, and are usually stopped rather quickly once the school receives some instruction on constitutional law. Let's hope the Davenport schools change their policy without further litigation,"" said Stone. 

Stone noted that ICLU's position in this case is perfectly consistent with its recent litigation to prevent another local school from having students sing "The Lord's Prayer" during graduation. 

"The First Amendment says the government can't restrict the right of people to practice their personal religious beliefs, while at the same time it forbids the government from endorsing religious beliefs, especially in a school setting,"" said Stone.

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