— The Wilson County School District has consented to a court order
that affirms the religious freedom and freedom of speech for all students in the district. In March, Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the district after school officials had censored the word “God” from student-made posters promoting National Day of Prayer and See You at the Pole events. The court issued an injunction
in May that halted the censorship while litigation continued.
“Christian students shouldn’t be censored for expressing their beliefs. They and their parents have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “When the school censored their posters by covering up references such as ‘In God We Trust,’ which is also the national motto of the United States, school officials were clearly treading on unconstitutional ground. After the court ruled against them, though, they saw the writing on the wall and consented to the court order so that no one will face such censorship in the future.”
Students and parents affiliated with Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet had placed posters in the hallways of their school on an annual basis promoting the “See You at the Pole” event. The posters, made on personal time without use of school funds or supplies, included the disclaimer: “See You at the Pole is a student-initiated and student-led event and is not endorsed by Lakeview Elementary or Wilson County Schools.” Despite the disclaimer, school officials ordered the students and parents to cover up the references to God and prayer, as well any passages of Scripture, if they wanted the posters to be displayed.
The preliminary injunction issued in May allowed the uncensored posters regarding the National Day of Prayer to be posted prior to the May 7 event.
The American Civil Liberties Union had previously sued the school to stop it from recognizing such events. In May 2008, the judge refused to grant the ACLU’s request.
ADF-allied attorney David L. Maddox served as local counsel in the case, Gold v. Wilson County School Board of Education, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.