Students Say 'Bible Ban' at Pennsylvania High School Is Unconstitutional

Students at a high school in Pennsylvania claimed that their school's policy of not allowing Bibles onto campus was unconstitutional.

Cumberland County High School students claimed the Mechanicsburg Area School District (MASD) denied the Bible club's request to hand out Bibles during lunch because it was against the school's policy, the lawyer representing the students told FOX43.

"In November, the students in the Bible club asked for permission to hand out Bibles to their friends in the cafeteria during non-instructional time," senior counsel Jeremy Samek told the news station. "And the principal of the school told them they could not hand out Bibles."

The high school's principal, David Harris, had repeatedly told students in the Bible club that they could not hand out Bibles during lunch, Penn Live reported. Harris also told the students that if they wanted to hand out Bibles after school they would have to ask for permission, according to the publication. The students then requested the help of Samek at the Independence Law Center Senior Counsel.

A Bible at Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville, South Carolina, November 28, 2018. Students at a high school in Pennsylvania recently claimed the school's policy that prevents them from handing out Bibles during lunch was unconstitutional. Jacob Biba for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The school district must respond to a letter from the law center by Monday requesting that the administration get rid of the ban, according to Penn Live. If the district fails to respond, the law center will approach the school during a board meeting on Tuesday, FOX43 reported.

"For some reason they believe that in order to avoid an establishment clause violation, they mistakenly believe they need to treat religion like it's toxic, and they need to eliminate it from public school wherever they find it," Samek told Penn Live. "When you start doing that, you move from protecting the establishment clause to violating the free speech right of students."

In a statement to FOX43, the Mechanicsburg Area School District said it was aware of the letter and planned to investigate the claims it contained.

"MASD is aware of the concerns presented by the Independence Law Center. We received a letter yesterday from the center alleging that a student group was denied permission to distribute Bibles. MASD respects the rights of students to express themselves and distribute materials. MASD also recognizes that exercise of that right must be limited by the District's responsibility to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights of all members of the school community," read a statement to the news station. "Accordingly, students do have the right to distribution of non-school materials prior to the start of the school day and after the end of the school day if they develop a plan for time, place and manner of distribution that is reviewed and approved by the administration. We plan to investigate the claims set forth in this letter and work with the students in accordance with the law and our local policy."

In September, a college student filed a lawsuit against the school after she was stopped from handing out Valentine's Day cards with Bible verses on them. Ally Polly Olsen, a paralegal student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, alleged in the lawsuit that the school policies which prevented her from giving out Valentine's Day cards violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Students Say 'Bible Ban' at Pennsylvania High School Is Unconstitutional | U.S.