FORT MYERS, Fla. - Tuesday Liberty Counsel will meet the Collier County, Florida, School Board in the Fort Myers federal courthouse. This lawsuit challenges the board's recent ban on Bibles during Religious Freedom Day on school campuses in Collier County, Florida. For years, the school board allowed World Changers to provide free Bibles to interested students by placing them on tables where students could voluntarily pick one up during noninstructional time, but now the school officials claim that Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and the distribution should stop. Liberty Counsel tried to convince the school board to correct its actions outside of court. But because of the school board's defiant actions, there will be a preliminary injunction hearing at 10:00 a.m. EDT in Judge Charlene Honeywell's chambers.
The Collier County School District policy specifically allows the distribution of literature by nonprofit organizations, but only with the approval of the superintendent and the Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent. Approval was denied to World Changers, despite the fact that its distribution included a disclaimer of any school endorsement or sponsorship and that receiving a Bible was purely voluntary. The district censored World Changers' message simply because it included the Bible, while other private groups remain free to distribute their private literature.
The school district suffers from a misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause, which does not prohibit private religious speech or literature. The distribution of Bibles by World Changers is private speech in a forum where other secular literature is allowed. As the Supreme Court has stated: "There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect."
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Liberty Counsel is committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of students. The policies and actions of the Collier County School District and its superintendent are unconstitutional. School officials cannot single out religious viewpoints for discriminatory treatment."