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Religious Discrimination? Will the Supreme Court Take Up the 'Candy Cane Case?


religious viewpoint discrimination against students is unconstitutional,"

After eight years of litigation, the case formally known as Morgan vs. Swanson (also dubbed the "candy cane case") is nowhere near resolution.

The legal battle, which charges that two Texas elementary school principals hampered students' rights to freely express their religious beliefs, is often held up as a prime example in the ongoing "War on Christmas." Now, the case is finally being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it could finally be laid to rest.

The Blaze first introduced this first-amendment case back in May. As we reported, the scenario commenced back in 2003 when an elementary school in Plano, Texas, refused to allow the distribution of 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 hand out the pens, because they had religious messages attached. As a result, in 2004, a number of unhappy families came together to sue the district.

The Christian Post has more about the school's -- and the region's -- history in the area of alleged free-speech violations:

In 2001, at the same school, another student, Michaela Wade, faced similar repercussions after passing out goodie bags, which contained “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pencils in them. [...]

The lawsuit was joined by another case. In 2004 – at another school, Rasor Elementary, in the same town – Stephanie Versher was stopped by the principal, Jackie Bombchill, from handing out free tickets to a Christian drama, even though she did not distribute the tickets during class hours. Versher was also reportedly prevented from handing out “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” pencils after school.

In 2010, a three-panel judge ruled in the families' favor. The district, though, appealed the decision. This past September, the principals involved were declared immune from any liability from the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Despite this fact, the court found that the principals were guilty of violating the children's constitutional rights.

The case was taken up by the Liberty Institute, a group that works "to limit government and to promote free enterprise and Judeo-Christian values." The group filed a petition with the Court just three days before Christmas, asking that the officials be held accountable for violating the children's rights. The group has put together a web site to address the case's importance.

A screen shot of the web site setup to advertise the "candy cane case."

"Every school official knows that engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination against students is unconstitutional," said Kelly Shackelford, Esq., president and CEO of Liberty Institute. "Saying that school officials can engage in such religious discrimination without any responsibility is not the law and would send exactly the wrong message to millions of school children and their families."

A press release from the Liberty Institute reads:

The petition asks The Supreme Court to review a deeply divided en banc decision of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which narrowly granted two school officials, Lynn Swanson, Principal of Thomas Elementary School, and Jackie Bombchill, Principal of Rasor Elementary School, qualified immunity, despite numerous constitutional violations.

While recognizing that the school officials violated the Constitution, a majority of the court determined that the law, however, was not clearly established enough to hold them responsible. In July 2010, a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit denied the school officials qualified immunity, recognizing that the law prohibiting viewpoint discrimination is clearly established and also rejected the school officials' argument that elementary school students have no First Amendment rights.

If the nation's highest court tackles the case, it would be the first time such a legal drama would be taken up by the justices. But Americans will have to wait, because the decision regarding hearing the case won't be known for months.

(H/T: Christian Post)

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