Court Upholds Religious Advertising In Arizona Public School

A federal appeals court ruled in May that an Arizona public school district must allow the advertisement of a Christian camp on school grounds since the district also permits secular groups to promote their programs.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) sued the Scottsdale Unified School District in 2000 representing a Christian summer camp that tried to advertise through the school. The group that operates the camp, called "A Little Sonshine From Arizona," argued that the school district's policy barring overtly religious advertising on school grounds was a form of discrimination.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled May 22 that the school policy is unconstitutional.

"The district cannot refuse to distribute literature advertising a program with underlying religious content where it distributes quite similar literature for secular summer camps, but it can refuse to distribute literature that itself contains proselytizing language," the 9th Circuit held.

The ACLJ's lawsuit was funded by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an umbrella group representing Religious Right interests. Several major evangelical groups founded the ADF, including James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ and D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries.

An attorney for the Scottsdale school district told the Associated Press that the district might ask the full 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the three-judge panel's ruling in Hills v. Scottsdale Unified School District.