A free speech case that has been in litigation for nine years was resolved by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week; the ruling was in the favor of freedom of speech for children.
Morgan v. Plano Independent School District was a case involving students and families, represented by the Liberty Institute, who were denied their free speech rights and who were discriminated against because their speech was religious in nature. One boy was banned from handing out candy cane pens with a religious message at his class “winter” party, a girl was threatened for handing out tickets after school to a religious play, and an entire class of children were forbidden from writing “Merry Christmas” on holiday cards to American troops serving overseas by the Plano Independent School District. Government officials argued that elementary students are too young to have First Amendment rights.
“Imagine the United States of America where the First Amendment protects a minor’s right to play violent video games, a person’s right to hatefully protest the funerals of our heroic men and women in the military, and the right to possess portrayals depicting animal cruelty, such as videos of people crushing kittens with their shoes, but does not protect a child’s right to share a pencil with another child at school merely because the pencil says the word ‘Jesus’,” said Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod of the case.
The Liberty Institute said that it is pleased with the court’s ruling but disappointed that school officials who discriminated and made threats against students who made mention of religion in school were not held legally accountable for their actions.
“A school official grabbing a little elementary school girl by the shoulder and threatening to kick her out of school for handing a ‘Jesus’ pencil to a friend after school is unacceptable,” said a statement from the organization.