Court Skips Mich. Public School Candy Cane Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a case dealing with the distribution of religious messages by a Michigan public school student.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Curry v. Hensinger that the school acted constitutionally in preventing a fifth-grade student from distributing candy canes accompanied by proselytizing messages.

In 2003, as part of a school project, Joel Curry, then 11, wanted to sell candy cane Christmas ornaments that included a note referring to Jesus. The message said the stripes on candy canes “remind us of Jesus’ suffering – his crown of thorns, the wounds in his hands and feet; and the cross on which he died,” while the white part of the candy “stands for Jesus as the holy, sinless Son of God.”

Saginaw School District officials considered the ornaments “religious literature,” and though Curry received an “A” on the assignment, he was not permitted to distribute the messages.

A federal court originally ruled in Curry’s favor, but the 6th Circuit reversed that decision. The appellate panel ruled that the principal’s determination that the religious card should not be permitted “was the product of her reasonable evaluation of legitimate pedagogical concerns, and fell within her discretion as a school administrator, and therefore did not violate any right Joel enjoyed under the First Amendment.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal group, petitioned the high court to overturn the appellate court’s ruling.