A conservative Christian group has filed a lawsuit against the Huntington Beach City School District in California, alleging that it is preventing the distribution of Bible-themed fliers.
District Superintendent Gregg Haulk said that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit last week, however.
“We did not restrict the students from passing out fliers,” Haulk said, according to Fox News.
In the center of the religious freedom row are the actions of two children at John R. Peterson Elementary School who attempted to hand out fliers promoting Bring Your Bible to School Day, which is sponsored by Christian group Focus on the Family.
The promotional materials, which encourage children to share their Bibles with their friends and families, were prohibited by the school to be distributed during instructional time, which for the school includes recess and lunch times.
Holly Bausch, the mother of the two students behind the Freedom X lawsuit, argued that recess and lunch time shouldn’t count as instructional time, however.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like kids get instruction during lunch and recess,” Bausch said. “Why is that considered instructional time? My kids go to daycare before and after school. So, lunch and recess are the only times when they would’ve had time to distribute the fliers.”
Candi Cushman, director of education issues and initiatives at Focus on the Family, who oversees the Bring Your Bible to School program, said the issue is vital for religious freedom in America's public schools.
“Respectfully sharing information during a free period on campus is one of the primary, and often only, outlets that kids have for expressing their values and putting their free-speech rights into practice," Cushman argued.
"Shut down that right — and you’ve pretty much squelched kids’ ability to direct any kind of student-led event.”
Bill Becker, president of Freedom X, who is representing the Bausch family, added that "to discriminate based on religious content is a violation of the First Amendment.”
He further argued that California schools choose to teach Islam and Sharia Law, but attempt to exclude Christianity.
“They are trying to push the idea of multiculturalism that is inclusive of Islam, but they are always willing to be exclusive of Christianity,” Becker said, according to the Orange County Register.
“It’s an upside-down world we have today, a backlash against the time when all schools were required to teach the Bible.”
Haulk insisted again that the mother was told that the content is “appropriate.”
“Despite the initial confusion, we communicated effectively with the parents. We’ve never had any issues with Bring Your Bible to School Day,” the superintendent maintained.
Cushman wrote in an op-ed in The Christian Post in 2017 that "thousands of courageous students, from kindergarten to college, are bringing the Bible back to campus" through its program.
"The big idea behind Bring Your Bible to School Day is to help kids feel empowered to share what's most important to them, and what makes them who they are — their faith," said Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.