Are Pro-Lifers Allowed to Wear T-Shirts?

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A public high school student in Malone, New York, was disciplined by her school for wearing a sweatshirt with a pro-life message.

The young woman wore a sweatshirt to school in September, 2000, that had printed on the front "Abortion is homicide", and on the back, "You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation. Rock for Life."

But in fact the school did attempt to silence her message. School officials told her that she could not wear this sweatshirt to school because it was "offensive". They then ordered her to go home and change, and she was placed on in-school suspension until her father came to the school to pick her up. She went up and refused to return to school that day rather than be forced to change her shirt.

The girl and her family then contacted the Thomas More Law Center, a civil liberties organization. Edward L White, one of the Center's lawyers, wrote a letter to the school district superintendent stating that the student had a Constitutional right to express her opinions in this manner, and demanding a written apology and assurance that the district would not attempt to interfere with her rights in the future.

The district refused, this time offering a new rationale: The sweatshirt contained a religious message, and therefore it constituted religious proselytizing, and it is illegal for a student to proseltyze in school. The district's lawyer explained that the school has the right and responsibility to prevent students from promoting religion just as it has a responsibility to prevent students from advocating drug or alcohol abuse.

The young lady's attorney pointed out that the courts have repeatedly ruled that students have a Constitutional right to free religious speech, and that the United States Department of Education has published guidelines for school districts, which have been delivered to every school district in the country, that state that students have the right to display religious messages on clothing to the same extent that students are permitted to display other comparable messages.

When presented with this documentation of established legal precedent, the school district conceded, and wrote the letter of apology and assurance of no further interference.

Source: Pro-Life Infonet, 6 Nov 2001, which in turn cites the Thomas More Law Center

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Posted 6 Nov 2001.

Copyright 2001 by Pregnant Pause.
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