Case closed on policy that banned Ark. 3rd grader’s church event flier

ADF suit, court order prompt Pulaski County district to end unconstitutional policy
Thursday, February 02, 2012

ADF attorney sound bite:  Matt Sharp

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In the wake of a federal court order that halted a Pulaski County Special School District flier policy, district officials have settled a lawsuit with Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing a 3rd-grade student and her mother who had been denied permission to distribute fliers for church-sponsored activities.

“All students should have the freedom to express their beliefs. The Constitution clearly prohibits bans that single out a religious viewpoint,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp. “This settlement means that fliers for ‘church-related’ activities will be treated with the same respect given to fliers for numerous other community programs and events.”

In October 2009, a Sherwood Elementary School 3rd-grade student and her mother requested permission to distribute fliers inviting friends and classmates to a church-sponsored swimming event the following month at a local pool. School officials, including Sherwood Elementary School’s principal, said that the fliers could not be distributed because they were “church-related.” However, the district freely permitted fliers promoting numerous other activities, such as ones sponsored by the 4-H Club, Boy & Girl Scouts, local youth sports teams, karate lessons, summer camps, book and consignment sales, and PTA fundraisers at local restaurants.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, issued a preliminary injunction that halted the policy in March of last year. The court wrote, “Indeed, the record clearly shows that defendants’ regulations, as presently enforced, merely stamp out certain viewpoint-based speech.”

To settle the suit, district officials eliminated its ban on “church-related” fliers, which may now be distributed by students during non-instructional time at school and which also may be included with all other community fliers at a table or distribution rack near each school’s front entrance. The district also agreed to pay for the student’s attorneys’ fees. In light of the settlement, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of their lawsuit Thursday.

J. Paul Davidson, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, served as local counsel in the suit, A.W. v. Pulaski County Special School District.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.