Lawsuit could bring change to policy on religious handouts - FOX 13 News

Lawsuit could bring change to policy on religious handouts

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It was a lawsuit over an Easter invitation, but Tuesday the Hillsborough County School Board will discuss a settlement.

Last April, a 4th grader asked a substitute teacher if he could hand out invitations to classmates for a Church-organized Easter egg hunt.

The invitation stated the event was planned "to have fun and learn the true meaning of Easter."

The teacher took the invitations and gave them to the principal for approval. But the invitations came back with a note stating "We are not allowed to pass out fliers related to religious events or activities. Thank you for your understanding."

The parents of the boy sued, saying the school district violated her son's First Amendment rights.

And a judge agreed.

So there is now an agreement between attorneys representing the boy's family and the district.

The school board will discuss changing their policies, treating information with a religious message the same as any other information that might be passed out at a school.

The policy would delete the following: "When the event or activity is sponsored by a religious institution/organization, the flyer may not contain a proselytizing message (i.e., promote the benefits of the specific religion)."

The policy would also remove statements that state, "Seek to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view over any other religious denomination, sect, or point of view."

The judge said while the district can't impose a religion, it also can't stop it.

School Board Chair April Griffin said it was a case of "all or nothing". Either stop everything from being distributed in schools, including birthday party invitations, or allow everything.

Griffin said she's concerned "this opens a window."

"I can foresee problems when a parent doesn't like a certain organization or religion," she said. "If we allow the Boys and Girls Club or we allow Little Leagues or we allow other organizations that come in and distribute information, then this child had the right to distribute this information as well."

Some parents we spoke to say they don't think it's such a big deal, and will use the opportunity as a teachable moment.

"For us, I think it's always good to learn about another religion. That enables you to have that education and learn what other religions are about. That maybe a lot of people aren't prejudged by that. So I don't have a problem with that, " said Glenda Cande.

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