FL School Officially Bans Religious Literature Distribution

After signaling this move for a couple months now, the Orange County School Board has officially changed its policy and will no longer allow outside groups to distribute any literature to students that is of a “religious, political or sectarian nature.”

Orange County students will no longer face the possibility of being offered Satanic coloring books or Bibles between classes under a new policy adopted by the School Board on Tuesday night.

The board has been considering such a change since a group called The Satanic Temple asked last fall for permission to distribute a Satanic coloring book and two fact sheets to Orange students.

But most of the debate Tuesday was over whether the board should ban just religious materials — or those from all outside groups.

“That would be an injustice to groups that provide great programs to our students,” said board chair Bill Sublette, citing Little League, football teams, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs as examples. “Some things are worth fighting for.”

Most of the speakers Tuesday encouraged the board to insulate itself against lawsuits by banning all outside materials…

Board members, who said they are on solid legal ground, voted 7-1 to approve a policy based on those in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which allow passive distribution of some materials, but nothing that is religious, political or sectarian.

Liberty Counsel says they’re going to sue, claiming that there is a constitutional right to distribute literature in schools, which is an absurd position that won’t make it past a motion for summary judgment.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
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  • wreck

    Satanists FTW!

  • John Pieret

    Liberty Counsel says they’re going to sue, claiming that there is a constitutional right to distribute literature in schools

    I wonder if Liberty University gets any Federal money. I bet they do. Maybe The Satanic Temple should demand the right to distribute materials on Liberty University’s campus and cite Liberty Counsel’s position as precedent.

  • lldayo

    Liberty Counsel says they’re going to sue, claiming that there is a constitutional right to distribute literature in schools, which is an absurd position that won’t make it past a motion for summary judgment.

    I don’t suppose the Orange County school district could counter sue claiming a frivolous lawsuit?

  • http://www.clanfield.net janiceintoronto

    Gotta love The Satanic Temple.

    They know how to get things done.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    …Orange students.

    They prefer the term “Citrus Americans”.

  • gshelley

    the new policy is that outside groups can distribute literature, but not if it is religious in nature?

  • matty1

    the new policy is that outside groups can distribute literature, but not if it is religious in nature?

    Cue “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus” in 3, 2….

  • Cal

    …Orange students.

    Also referred to as “Boehners”

  • abb3w

    @6, gshelley

    the new policy is that outside groups can distribute literature, but not if it is religious in nature?

    Apparently; and I think under Rosenberger v UVA, Liberty Counsel might have a shot complaining. Prohibiting only religious topics would seem to be viewpoint discrimination. (I think Rosenberger was a horrible decision, but I won’t deny that it’s currently case law.)

    I think the Satanists should sue, as well — to make sure that if the policy changes yet again, the Satanists have to have a chance to be the first ones to distribute, lest the “limited open forum” become one “limited to being open when you’re not trying to get in”.

  • raven

    Prohibiting only religious topics would seem to be viewpoint discrimination. (I think Rosenberger was a horrible decision, but I won’t deny that it’s currently case law.)

    1. That might not apply in Florida.

    2. There was a viewpoint discrimination lawsuit in California. Private fundie xian schools against the UCal system and Berkeley. They were trying to get creationist biology credits accepted. They lost.

    3. My local public transit district aka “The Bus LIne” won’t accept political or religious ads. So far no one has sued them.

  • John Pieret

    I think under Rosenberger v UVA, Liberty Counsel might have a shot complaining.

    Different issue. In that case the university was funding student publications but refused to fund religious ones. Here, the school is opening a limited public forum and the “limited” refers to the scope of the forum. Government can open its premises to, say, outside sports groups to hold events without having to allow religious groups to set up booths. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.

  • abb3w

    @11, John Pieret:

    Different issue. In that case the university was funding student publications but refused to fund religious ones. Here, the school is opening a limited public forum and the “limited” refers to the scope of the forum.

    I’ll again note that I am not a lawyer, and that you ARE; and I myself would certainly hope the SCOTUS would take the view you suggest. I’m certainly not claiming I think Liberty Counsel would win. Contrariwise, I’ll note that the Rosenberger ruling explicitly framed the case in terms of a forum analysis. As such, I think that Liberty Counsel would be able to make a laugh resistant lawsuit by relying on it.

    I think the most likely grounds for distinction that the SCOTUS might eventually draw were a case to get so far would not be on question of scope vs viewpoint, but would be based on the difference in ages — college students being far less impressionable than elementary school students.

  • John Pieret

    abb3w:

    I probably wasn’t clear. The difference between the two is that, in Rosenberger, it wasn’t a public forum, it was actually a government forum (paid for by the university), while in this school’s case allowing some public groups (social, non-sectarian organizations, such as Little League, football teams, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs … as examples given by the school board) access to students to provide (not at government expense) materials on such things as sports and civics, shouldn’t trigger viewpoint discrimination. Obviously, the Young Men’s Christian Association may present some problems but I don’t believe they proselytize. Adjustments can be made to the forum to address any such problems.

  • peterh

    Religious or sectarian is quite obvious – or ought to be – but political? How could that be seen as contravening the Bill of Rights in particular or the entire Constitution?

  • abb3w

    @13, John Pieret

    The difference between the two is that, in Rosenberger, it wasn’t a public forum, it was actually a government forum (paid for by the university)

    “These principles provide the framework forbidding the State to exercise viewpoint discrimination, even when the limited public forum is one of its own creation.” As a non-lawyer, I’m probably missing something, but the majority holding of Rosenberger still seems to argue against that part of your thesis; the restriction of religious speech would seem to have been easier in government forums (as the dissent seems to suggest), due to the antiestablishmentarian concerns, but was disallowed despite that.

    Contrariwise, I’d agree, there probably are adjustments that legally could be made to fix the problem.

    Nohow, I see no basis to expect that the Board is politically capable of doing so.

  • gshelley

    From what I have seen, if the school was limiting students this way, it wouldn’t be allowed. In this case, if they are allowing clubs and social groups, but not other organisations, that is probably OK, though it wouldn’t surprise me if there aren’t at least some on the Supreme Court who disagree

  • Trebuchet

    “That would be an injustice to groups that provide great programs to our students,” said board chair Bill Sublette, citing Little League, football teams, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs as examples. “Some things are worth fighting for.”

    That would be the Young Men’s Christian Association? And the Boy Scouts, where kids can be gay but can’t be atheists?