Lawyers representing a church in Nevada have asked a school district to reverse its policy that prohibits the distribution of flyers that are deemed religious.
Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley had been allowed to take part in a community flyer distribution program run by the Lyon County School District in the past few years, but in July the district decided to ban religious flyers after a complaint from a parent.
The policy in question states that the district is allowed to assist outside groups in distributing flyers and announcements, but it specifically prohibits flyers that are "intended to promote a partisan political cause/candidate, promote a religious opinion/belief, are propagandistic or proselytizing."
Calvary Chapel, which is located 15 miles northeast of Carson City, wanted to distribute flyers about the church's "Harvest Party" in late October and an "Outdoor Excursions" program involving "outdoor activities and Christian mentorship."
The district, however, refused to allow the church to distribute the promotional materials unless it removes the images of a cross, Bible quotations, and phrases such as "Christ-centered discipleship/mentoring program" to "mentoring program."
In a letter dated Nov. 28, lawyers from First Liberty Institute and Michigan-based law firm Lipson Neilson demanded that the school district reverse the policy on grounds that it violates the First Amendment, and suggested that the district could face a lawsuit if it does not remove the restrictions on religious flyers.
"A lot of times schools are misinformed about what the law is and they think it requires them to be hostile toward religion, whereas actually it just requires them to be neutral and not take sides," said Stephanie Taub, counsel for First Liberty, told The Daily Caller. "And that's what our client is asking for – just to be treated like everybody else," she added.
District officials have maintained that the policy is legal, and said that they have offered to meet with church officials to discuss their concerns.
Erika Garcia, a spokeswoman for the district, stated that the district "has always enjoyed a good relationship with this church" and had previously allowed it to host an after-school program at Dayton Elementary School.
She noted that an assistant pastor for the church had attended one of the two public meetings about the policy change on July 25, but "did not comment or provide any input."
Amber Williams, an associate attorney with Lipson Neilson, insisted that the policy is unconstitutional and "defeats the very purpose of providing community information."
"By removing all religious references from the flyers, parents and students have no way of knowing about the nature of the events and cannot make informed decisions about whether to attend," she noted.
The church's lawyers have given the school district two weeks to reply to the Nov. 28 letter. Garcia has stated that she wanted to meet with the church officials and lawyers to address their concerns and explain why the policy is legal and in compliance with the constitution.
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