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Texas Man's Tattooed Jesus Ad Sparks First Amendment Legal Battle
Image source: Alliance Defending Freedom

Texas Man's Tattooed Jesus Ad Sparks First Amendment Legal Battle

"Christians should not be prevented from expressing their beliefs in public venues."

A Texas man is suing a local school district after officials refused to display his Christian advertisement featuring a tattooed Jesus during high school football games.

David L. Miller's lawsuit against the Lubbock Independent School District in Lubbock, Texas, comes after he alleges that officials denied his digital billboard advertising the website JesusTattoo.org in October.

While the ad was not permitted on a jumbotron at Lowrey Field and PlainsCapital Park, the district has routinely granted advertising permissions to other outside organizations and religious groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal organization said in a statement.

Image source: Alliance Defending Freedom

Miller is the founder of Little Pencil, LLC, a group that "promotes the Bible’s teachings through contemporary marketing campaigns."

The digital billboard would have included the link to JesusTattoo.com along with a tatted-up picture of the Christian savior (the faux Jesus is shown with the sins of the world tattooed on his body).

The website in question includes a video describing how to become a Christian. As KCBD-TV noted, the clip "features a video of Jesus removing people's negative tattoos, representing their struggles, and turning them into positive ones."

Watch it below:

When Alliance Defending Freedom inquired to find out why Lubbock Independent School District denied the ad, officials reportedly said that religious messages can't be touted through government property, though the legal firm claims that the district regularly allows other faith-based organizations to purchase space.

"Christians should not be prevented from expressing their beliefs in public venues," attorney Matt Sharp said. "We hope that Lubbock Independent School District will revise its policy so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms."

While the district expressed fears over the First Amendment's Establishment Clause in citing its decision not to allow the ad, Miller and Alliance Defending Freedom are relying on a free speech argument of their own, noting that "the government may not discriminate against private speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum in question."

This creates a dueling interpretation of the First Amendment -- one in which both sides seem to believe that the paradigms surrounding freedom of speech and freedom of religion validate their viewpoint on the matter.

The situation is made even more complex considering the fact that the ad would have been presumably shown to public school children.

The district told KCBD-TV that it cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

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