For any Christian parent, you would be proud to hear of your son or daughter sharing the Gospel during lunch at school. But what if a principal was trying to prevent it?
Well, that's exactly what's happening in the Mechanicsburg Area School District – and it's exactly why we're getting involved.
Jeremy Samek, my colleague at the Independence Law Center, has been in regular contact with the student leaders of the Bible club at the high school after Principal David Harris denied permission to distribute Bibles to their classmates at any time during the school day, including during lunch. Not only that, but the principal made it clear to the students that they were not even allowed to distribute Bibles outside of the school day unless they were given permission by the school.
The shocking part is that it isn't even the school's first run-in with free speech issues this school year. Just a few months ago, the Bible Club student leaders sought permission to post their club flyer advertising their meeting – just like all the other school clubs. However, they were denied because the flyer had a Bible verse on it and were told their flyer would only be permitted if the verse was removed.
For this unconstitutional censoring of their flyer, it took our legal involvement, and the involvement of the district's solicitor, to instruct the principal that this censorship of student speech is unconstitutional. As a result, the flyer was permitted with the Bible verse.
But now, just a few months later, we have another blatantly unconstitutional act by this same school district. As a result, we have sent a letter to the school as well as making the situation public. As soon as we did, it grabbed much attention, with Jeremy being featured by CBS21 along with several other local media outlets, explaining what's going on. Jeremy puts it best,
"Mechanicsburg Area School District, as evidenced by the actions of Mr. Harris, is either severely misinformed as to the contours of student rights in schools or is purposefully hostile towards student religious speech."
We have given a deadline of Monday, January 7th for the school to notify us as to what they will be doing to remedy their most recent unconstitutional act. So far, we have not heard from the school directly. There is a board meeting the following day from our deadline, which is open to the public, at 7pm on Tuesday, January 8th.
These public school students who are just trying to live out their faith won't be billed one dime for our services thanks to people like you who support our legal service. Thank you so much for your partnership with us that makes this free legal assistance to these students possible.
Lastly, I thought to point out the Bible verse on the school's flyer: Mark 16:15,
"And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."
And yes, that should include a public school lunchroom.
Stay tuned for more on this situation and thank you for your prayers for a positive outcome.