Bible pest sues school over tracts
A Christian teenager in Washington state is suing his school district in federal court, claiming that he was suspended on three separate occasions for passing out Bible verses and preaching aloud at school-sponsored events.
According to this report, Cascade High School senior Michael Leal, above, spent an hour in court last week while lawyers argued over his right to distribute religious literature at school. Said Leal, who plans to be a missionary when he graduates this spring, told the court:
I want to get the Gospel forth in school through Gospel tracts.
Leal has been suspended for distributing Christian pamphlets, and preaching to students during breaks.
The district says current school policy limits the distribution of literature to campus entrances and exits and only before and after school. The policy is designed to promote order, safety and learning.
Last year, when the clash between Leal and his school was first reported, the student claimed that his rights were violated with unfair punishments while the the school said that he had continued to cause “substantial disruption”.
School attorney Michael Patterson said in an October 27 letter to Leal’s attorney:
At no time was Mr Leal told that his distribution of material or his statements were inappropriate at school because of their religious content. Rather, he was informed of District policy … and told that he needed to comply with it. He was also informed that he could not create a substantial disruption at school or school events.
At the centre of the row are the disruptions Leal is said to have caused, with the school district and the teen’s attorney’s offering varying accounts of what unfolded. While the district claims Leal’s peers complained over his proselytizing, his attorneys begged to differ.
Pacific Justice Institute Brad Dacus said in a statement:
It is deeply troubling to see a school district dig in its heels on a policy that is so clearly unconstitutional. We are eager to vindicate Mr Leal’s rights and prevent him from being expelled for simply sharing his deeply-held beliefs.
According to the complaint, the student’s problems with administration began on September 3 last year when he passed out tracts during lunch. This landed him in the principal’s office.
Then Leal appeared at an evening event in October, loudly preaching to students and handing out tracts. He was reportedly approached by the principal during the school-sanctioned event and asked to stop. When he declined, the police were called to stop the “substantial disruption”.
Authorities spoke with Leal, but didn’t take any further action, the outlet reported. The student was, however, suspended the next day. Just a few days later, Leal again handed out tracts at another school event on October 8, further drawing the ire of administrators.
He was suspended most recently on October 31 when he was seen passing a tract to another student in math class.
Officials say they were simply attempting to stop what they deemed to be continuous acts of disruption, but Leal’s attorney’s counter that the teen did not harass or bother others with his activities.
Court documents filed on Leal’s said:
Leal has not now, nor has he ever, used preaching or distribution of literature, to harass, intimidate, or bully any students, school employees, or others on campus.
Leal and his attorneys believe that the school unfairly cracked down on his religious and constitutional rights.
Appeals could take this case all the way to the US Supreme Court.