A schoolchild in America has been banned from handing out invitations to classmates for a Christmas party held in a church.
Local education officials in Pennsylvania say allowing the invitations would breach its rules against promoting Christianity.
But the same school has allowed flyers for Hallowe’en parties and Valentine’s Day dances.
The case has been taken up by religious liberty group, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The group has launched a legal action for religious discrimination.
ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman said: “Christian students and churches shouldn’t be discriminated against, censored and excluded in public schools because of their beliefs.
“Disallowing a 5th-grade student’s invitation to a Christmas party just because it takes place in a church is simply unconstitutional”, he added, “especially when Hallowe’en parties and promotional events for businesses and other community groups indiscriminately receive a free pass”.
In early December last year, Barrett Elementary Center in Cresco, Pennsylvania stopped the 5th-grade Christian student from handing out the invitations to her classmates before class.
The flyer from the pupil’s church invited children from kindergarten up to 6th-grade and read: “Admission and all activities are free! Face Painting, Ping Pong, Football, Cup-Stacking, Games, Prizes, Puppets, Music, Snacks, and more!”
District policies prohibit any student expression, written or verbal, that promotes Christianity or a religious point of view.
But the policies give each school subjective discretion when it comes to flyers.
The girl’s father challenged the prohibition but was told by Superintendent Dwight Pfennig that district policies allowed him “to make that decision on behalf of the district”.
As a result, the girl was banned from distributing flyers inviting her fellow students to the party, although the school has been happy to allow students to distribute invitations to birthday parties, Hallowe’en celebrations and Valentine’s Day dances.
The district has also allowed community groups and local businesses to distribute advertisements for a basketball league, bowling club and community classes, through a take-home flyer forum and a literature distribution table at the school.
The case, which is being handled by Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, is claiming that the school district has breached the child’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.