Owasso Kids for Christ is a voluntary before-school club that holds Bible studies at a local elementary school Owasso, Oklahoma. Like other clubs and organizations, they use school property to hold their meetings and events, along with the bulletin boards and take home fliers distributed by the schools to advertise their meetings and events.
In April, the club filed for permission to distribute take-home fliers for students and their parents to advertise a martial arts event they were sponsoring. When District Superintendent Clark Ogilvie saw that the Kids for Christ flier contained the phrase ‘Reaching the world for Christ!’ he denied permission for the club to hand out the fliers or placing them on the literature table in the elementary school where they hold their meetings.
The school district has a policy manual that spells out its directives on such things as outside advertisements. The manual states, “No literature will be distributed that contains primarily religious, objectionable, or political overtones.”
In addition to the superintendent’s denial, the attorney for the school district sent a letter to Kids for Christ in which was spelled out the reasons they were denied use of the school bulletin board, the literature table and the PA announcement system that are all used by the other community groups.
The Alliance Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf the Kids for Christ Club claiming the club had received permission to use the facilities for their events, but Ogilvie intentionally tried to stop the group from publicizing their event not only at the schools, but in local newspapers and signs posted in town. Ogilvie claimed that such advertisement would stir up trouble for the district.
ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp who is representing Kids for Christ said, “‘A Christian organization should not be targeted for discrimination when it is simply seeking to publicize its voluntary meetings just like other community groups do. The district would have people believe that the Constitution requires a religious organization to be singled out in this manner when, in reality, the Constitution strictly prohibits this type of discrimination. The courts have repeatedly upheld this.”
Sharp also pointed out that the district has given approval and allowed a YMCA flier to be handed out even though it contained the statement, “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” Sharp explained, “Just as it rightly allowed the YMCA’s flier, the district must allow the ‘Kids for Christ’ club’s fliers and other activity announcements. The district is very clearly wrong in its view of the First Amendment.”
I suspect that the school district realizes just how secular the YMCA has become in many of its functions and feel that no one would complain about them as much as they would about Kids for Christ which is a very evangelistic group. Years ago, I remember attending YCMA functions and hearing a biblical message, but those are few and far between these days. I’ve heard others quip that they need to remove the ‘C’ (Christian) out of their name.
This also demonstrates just how afraid schools are of anything to do with Christianity. But I wonder what the school would do if the received the same request from a Muslim or Hindu club? Would they deny them access to hand out fliers or the literature table or the PA system? I don’t think they would for fear of some kind of public outcry or retribution.
Lastly, how can a school district legally restrict Kids for Christ from advertising in the local newspaper or from hanging signs on telephone poles in town? The school has no jurisdiction over those kinds of matter and to try to do so is a direct violation of their First Amendment right to the freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof as well as their freedom of speech.