Censorship of Kindergartner's Jesus Picture Appealed to Supreme Court

Liberty Alerts, Liberty Counsel

WASHINGTON, DC – On March 11, Liberty Counsel filed a petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review a New York school district’s censorship of a picture of Jesus that then-kindergartner Antonio Peck included on his poster showing ways to save the world. Liberty Counsel has represented Antonio, who is now a high school student, for more than 10 years. During that time, Antonio’s case has been heard by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals three times.

In the two prior appeals, the Second Circuit overruled a district court judge’s dismissal of Antonio’s claims and held that there was a concern that the school district’s actions could be seen as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. In the most recent appeal, the court skirted the issue of whether the school district violated Antonio’s constitutional rights by deciding that Antonio was no longer entitled to challenge the district’s actions, because there was no reasonable expectation that his work would be censored again.

In the petition filed with the Supreme Court today, Liberty Counsel argues that the Second Circuit’s most recent decision conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, which provides that students like Antonio have the right to challenge the actions of school officials so long as they remain subject to the district policies that prompted the actions. In Antonio’s case, school officials have said that they censored the picture of Jesus because they were concerned that adults might see the picture and think the school was teaching about religion. Since a concern about how adults would react to student work remains relevant throughout a student’s academic career, a challenge to action taken in response to that concern continues to be subject to court review, even if the student has progressed to a different grade level. The Second Circuit’s decision failed to follow this precedent, and Liberty Counsel is asking the Supreme Court to review the decision.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Students may present religious themes in their homework. Despite the federal guidelines on religion in public schools recognizing that students may include religious themes in assignments, school officials insisted on folding Antonio Peck’s poster in half to hide the figure they interpreted to be Jesus. After ten years and three appeals, Antonio deserves an answer to the question of whether the school district violated his constitutional rights. The Second Circuit skirted the issue, and we are asking the Supreme Court to give Antonio the chance to get that answer.”

Used with permission.