|Updated: 10/25/2011 11:57 pm
||Published: 10/25/2011 3:42 pm
A Christian group says they are being censored at school and they want their rights back.
The Owasso Kids for Christ group filed a federal lawsuit against Owasso Public Schools.
In the federal lawsuit filed on Monday, members state their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the District wouldn’t allow them to hand out flyers about events with the club.
On the Owasso Kids for Christ, a youth Bible club, states on its Facebook page that it meets every Wednesday before school at 8:30 a.m. at Northeast Elementary in Owasso.
That’s not what is at issue and neither is religion in schools.
In the lawsuit it states Kids for Christ states wants any community group, even religious groups to be treated fairly in schools.
The club used to send home flyers and permission slips with kids until the District told them they had to stop when it had its motto, “One Dream, One Vision, Reaching the World for Christ!" attached to the flyer.
"The school district cannot engage in that type of discriminatory behavior,” says Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney, Matt Sharp.
The ADF who represents the youth group is Christian legal team defending the right of people to live their faith.
"That's basically the Christian faith that's showing love for Jesus to others, I don't see how that is harmful to others,” says an Owasso mother.
The group argues another flyer handed out for Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) also bears a Christian motto, “With a mission to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all…”
An Oral Roberts University Government professor and pre-law advisor says the school cannot discriminate against religion.
"If they are going to allow the YMCA, if they are going to allow the Boy Scouts, they really can't just say they're religious, but we're okay with how they are religious but we're not okay with your religious” says Winston Frost.
The lawsuit claims the Bible club offered to remove the last phrase but the District said no.
"The school has to remain neutral in all of this, it can't pick and choose which group it likes or doesn't like based on the religious content or viewpoint of their message,” says Sharp.
The District says it was just following existing policy.
“No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones which may be beneficial to any particular group of business at the expense of others,” state Policy 1.05 (F)(3).
However, the Kids for Christ attorney isn’t buying it.
“A policy like that is clearly unconstitutional,” says Sharp.
Frost also says singling out a religion is unconstitutional.
"When they are saying the YMCA is okay but youth for Christ isn't then that raises the question that Christ is wrong to mention rather than Christian? How do you do that?” says Frost.
In the lawsuit, the club is not asking for money but for a policy change and equal access like other community groups.
The Owasso Public Schools Superintendent Clark Ogilvie, Ph.D faxed a statement, “Dr. Ogilvie indicates that the issue has been misconstrued and taken out of context and merits clarification on two points in particular. First, Owasso School District has never denied access to any religious groups in its schools. Secondly, religious groups have met in the district’s facilities for years without discrimination but are asked to follow certain guidelines/school policies in their operation. The district’s policies in these matters are clear and available online at the school district’s website.”
Original Headline, “Owasso school district sued over alleged religious discrimination.”