Friday, Dec. 1, 2017|2:41 p.m.
RENO– An evangelical Christian church in Nevada says its First Modification rights are being violated by a rural school district’s restriction on promotional leaflets the church wishes to distribute at a school community program together with other charitable companies.
Legal Representatives for Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley sent out a letter to the Lyon County School District today demanding equal access to its community flyer circulation program.
Under the title of “Unconstitutional Censorship of Religious Viewpoints,” they suggest the district east of Reno could deal with a suit if they fail to change existing policy.
The policy embraced in July states the district recognizes that many outside organizations “add to the education and positive development of trainees and their households,” and therefore the district may assist those groups in dispersing leaflets and announcements. But it particularly restricts flyers that are “planned to promote a partisan political cause/candidate, promote a spiritual opinion/belief, are propagandistic or proselytizing.”
District authorities maintain the policy is legal. They said in a statement offered to The Associated Press on Friday they were caught by surprise by the criticism and have provided to consult with church authorities to discuss their issues.
The church in Dayton 15 miles northeast of Carson City is being represented by a private law office and the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based public interest law firm that describes itself as the largest legal organization in the nation devoted solely to defending religious flexibilities.
Amber Williams, a private Las Vegas-based attorney, stated in the Nov. 28 letter that the district refused to disperse flyers about the church’s “Harvest Celebration” in late October and an “Outside Adventures” program involving “outside activities and Christian mentorship.”
The district has dispersed leaflets about similar activities involving outdoor programs, sports leagues, and Halloween parties from a variety of regional neighborhood groups, including Boys and Ladies Clubs, Williams composed.
But district officials refused to enable the church’s leaflets unless they got rid of pictures of a cross and Bible quotes and changed expressions such as “Christ-centered discipleship/mentoring program” to “mentoring program,” she stated.
The U.S. Supreme Court has actually ruled that “school employees, like all government stars, are needed to remain neutral with regard to personal spiritual speech,” Williams composed. Because the district disperses “considerably similar leaflets from a secular point of view,” she said the school needs to deal with leaflets “from a religious point of view” in the exact same way.
“They may not single out a church’s flyers for censorship, and they may not force a church to scrub the leaflets of any spiritual language,” included Stephanie Taub, a lawyer for Very first Liberty. “That is hostility towards religion.”
District spokeswoman Erika Garcia said in a declaration emailed to AP that the district “has actually always enjoyed a great relationship with this church.”
To name a few things, the district allows the church to host an after-school program at Dayton Elementary School and has offered volunteers to assist establish tables at family nights “while using t-shirts with church recognizing logo designs,” she stated.
An assistant pastor for Calvary Chapel attended one of the 2 public meetings on the policy adopted on July 25, but “did not comment or supply any input,” she said.
Garcia said they wish to consult with church leaders and their lawyers to describe “our view as to why the policy is legal and in compliance with all constitutional requirements and, more notably, to deal with any issues they might have.”