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California Students Win Right to Wear Pro-Marriage T-shirts to School

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  ROHNERT PARK, CA, August 17, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Students in a northern California city recently won the right to wear pro-marriage t-shirts after school officials were warned against restricting their free speech.

Tired of the constant barrage of messages contrary to their beliefs, student members of the Conservative Club at a high school in Rohnert Park decided to express their own traditional values for a change. Working with staff attorneys at Pacific Justice Institute, as well as PJI affiliate attorney Bill Trask, the students selected a t-shirt message which clearly stated the students’ support for traditional marriage, including a quote from the Bible, in a manner which was respectful, non-threatening and legally defensible.

Since the students had been threatened by school officials with suspension if they wore t-shirts expressing their values, PJI sent a letter to school officials explaining the students’ First Amendment rights to wear expressive clothing. The letter cited numerous cases which have specifically upheld students’ rights to wear expressive apparel, including Tinker v. Des Moines, a landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision which declared, “Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the view of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk, and our history says it is this sort of hazardous freedom—this kind of openness—that is the basis of our national strength.”

After PJI sent the letter on behalf of these students, school officials abandoned their position and made no further attempts to discipline students for exercising their rights. The students were therefore allowed to wear their pro-marriage t-shirts for the remainder of the school year.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “As we begin another school year, it’s important to remember that students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates. Our youth have open doors to express their faith—through their clothing, in school assignments, and in after-school activities to name but a few. We’re excited as we look ahead to another great year of defending religious freedom in our educational institutions.

jhw

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