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Religious 'Candy Cane Case' Asks: Do Elementary Students Have First Amendment Rights?


"Students were...told not to write “Merry Christmas” on cards being sent to troops serving overseas."

The "candy cane case" may have serious implications for the First Amendment rights of elementary school children. This creatively-dubbed legal battle started back in 2003 when an elementary school in Plano, Texas, refused to allow children to distribute religious materials.

Jonathon Morgan, a third-grade student at the time, brought candy cane-shaped pens to share with his class. Administrators at the Plano Independent School District refused to allow him to distribute the pens, because they had religious messages attached. Back in 2001, another student's party favors (pencils that said "Jesus is the reason for the season") were also confiscated.

These incidents accumulated and, in 2004, a number of unhappy families came together to sue the district. CBS has more:

The...lawsuit lists several examples of students being prohibited from promoting their beliefs...a little girl was threatened for handing out tickets to an after-school play with a religious theme. Students were also told not to write the words “Merry Christmas” on cards being sent to troops serving overseas.

Last year, a three-judge panel ruled in the families' favor. But, the district appealed and the case was heard again on Monday by a full court. The question at the heart of this debate is whether elementary-aged children, like their adult counterparts, should have First Amendment rights.

Watch one of the families discuss their experience below:

This case will certainly be an important one, considering that the end result will impact religious rights for children across the nation. Despite the appeal and an elongated battle, the families' chances of winning are fairly good. Even the ACLU has joined in support of the plaintiffs.

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