NY – A trial concerning the censorship of Jesus starts today
in the federal case of Peck v. Baldwinsville School District.
The case involves a school district’s censorship of a kindergartner’s
art poster containing a picture of Jesus. Liberty Counsel represent
the parents of Antonio Peck, the student whose poster was censored.
1999, Antonio’s kindergarten teacher instructed her class to
draw a poster about how to save the environment. Antonio’s first
poster contained several religious figures and the statement: “The
only way to save the world.” Antonio was expressing his belief
that God was the only way to save the environment. This poster was
second poster included cutout figures of children holding hands
around the world, people recycling trash, and children picking up
garbage. On the left side of the poster was a picture of Jesus with
one knee to the ground and two hands stretched toward the sky. This
poster was displayed in the cafeteria along with 80 other student
posters, but unlike the other posters, school officials folded Antonio’s
poster in half so that the figure of Jesus could not be seen.
The poster was folded to censor any religious reference in the poster
and made the poster look silly, as it was only a fraction of the size
of the other posters and also cut off part of Antonio’s name.
School officials admitted that posters with other secular figures
which were not discussed in class would be allowed but not Jesus,
because such a figure is religious. When school officials refused
to remedy the matter or adopt a policy to prevent future censorship,
Liberty Counsel filed suit.
the lower court ruled that the school had the right to censor the
poster because of “church and state” concerns, a unanimous
appeals court reversed that decision, ruled that a public school cannot
engage in viewpoint discrimination, and sent the case back to the
district court for a trial. The trial court again ruled in favor of
the district, and, again, a unanimous court of appeals reversed, stating
that religious viewpoint discrimination is not permissible even in
class assignments. The case is now back for the final trial.
Liberty Counsel will present evidence this week that Antonio’s
poster was censored because it contained the drawing of Jesus. School
officials have already admitted in sworn statements that secular images
would not have been censored, even if the images did not relate to
the art assignment.
The school district sent a terrible
message to Antonio and the other students that faith is not welcome.
Schools officials may not discriminate against religious viewpoints
of students who address permissible subjects in response to class
assignments. Antonio is an example of the maxim that one person, no
matter how young, can accomplish great things when they stand for
a principled cause.
Matthew D. Staver is the founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of the Liberty University School of Law.