School District Oks Religious Expression

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Students in a Wisconsin school district can now freely express their religion in assignments, thanks to a victory by the Alliance Defense Fund.

Tomah School district decided Friday to allow religious expression in student artwork, settling a lawsuit that ADF filed against them in March.

The Christian group sued on behalf of a student, identified by his initials A.P., who received a "zero" grade for a drawing of a cross and the phrase "John 3:16 - A sign of love."

A.P.'s art teacher told him the assignment could not be accepted because the school had a policy of not allowing violence, blood, sex and religious beliefs in artwork.

Lori M. Lubinsky, the district's attorney, said the policy had been in place for more than 10 years to keep gang symbols and other "negative expression" out of students' work.

"Tomah art teachers had the best of intentions when they put the original policy in place," Lubinsky said. "They implemented the policy to keep students from being exposed to potentially offensive satanic or gang-related beliefs ... the art teachers did not receive any complaints from students who appreciated the policy."

Other students in A.P.'s school, however, had been allowed to turn in religious items and artwork before, as well as demonic and gory drawings.

ADF attorneys believed that was unfair to A.P., and that the policy in general violated the student's constitutional rights.

"In this case, school officials engaged in an unconstitutional double standard by permitting certain students to submit drawings depicting demon-like creatures while simultaneously prohibiting a drawing that included a cross and Scripture verse." ADF attorney David Cortman said.

The lawsuit claimed that Buddha and Hindu figurines had been displayed in a classroom at A.P.'s school, and that a teacher had repeatedly taught Hindu principles to students.

Cortman called the district's decision a victory. The case should be settled formally in a few weeks.

Students are still not allowed to submit work with gang symbols, violence, blood and sexual content, but they can express their religious beliefs, as long as it satisfies the assignment criteria.

Sources: CBN News, Alliance Defense Fund, Wausau Daily Herald

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