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A Virginia high school barred a Christian student from distributing materials and wearing a T-shirt that declared opposition to abortion, prompting a legal response.
Andrew Raker, a student at Millbrook High School in Winchester, Va., participated in a national pro-life event Oct. 24 called the “Day of Silent Solidarity” in which he distributed postcard-sized fliers with information about abortion, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund said.
The next day, school officials pulled Raker from class and told him he could no longer distribute the materials because other students might object or consider them to be religious in nature.
ADF said Millbrook’s principal, Joseph Swack, also threatened to force Raker to remove or cover his pro-life clothing if other students complained.
In addition, Swack deferred a decision on Raker’s request to form a pro-life club, expressing doubt about its acceptability.
The Alliance Defense Fund responded with a letter to Swack contending the high school’s refusal to allow a student to present pro-life speech violates the Constitution.
“Christian students cannot be treated as second-class citizens,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Expressing a pro-life point of view, whether it is considered to be ‘popular’ or not, does not disqualify an individual from the right to free speech.”
As WND reported in September, a California school changed its T-shirt policy after two students were reprimanded for wearing the “inappropriate” Christian message that life is valuable.
One of the messages, according to the Pacific Justice Institute, read on the back: “Help Cure Abortion” on the front, and “Abortion: The leading cause of death in America 1,200,000 every year.”
One student was pulled from class by two instructors who told her she was not allowed to wear the shirt to school because it was “inappropriate.” The situation quickly was reversed when the Pacific Justice Institute sent a letter to school officials expressing concern over the First Amendment implications of the school’s demands.
In March 2004, another Virginia high school student was barred from wearing a shirt with a pro-life message because it violated the school’s policy against profane or obscene language.
The shirt said: “Abortion is Homicide. You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation. Rock for Life.”
As WND reported in 2003, a student in Cleveland was given two days of Saturday detention after two students in his 1,200-member high school complained about a sweatshirt with the same message.
In Pennsylvania, a junior high school principal barred a T-shirt with that message, arguing it was the equivalent of wearing a swastika to school. The principal later reversed his decision after the Thomas More Law Center explained the student’s First Amendment rights and threatened a lawsuit.
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