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Judge Vindicates WA High School Preacher

Last fall, Michael Leal was suspended from Cascade High School in Everett, Washington.  His offense?  He handed out pamphlets and shared his faith with students during breaks at school.

“People talk about a lot of other things and I feel like I should be able to talk about what I want to talk about. It’s about Jesus. It’s about the Bible,” Leal told KIRO Seattle.

In November, Leal filed a lawsuit challenging the suspension and the rules that led to it.  On Friday, federal judge Thomas S. Zilly ruled that the Everett School District’s policy requiring any literature handed out to be written or produced by the students was unconstitutional.

It was noted that the policy barred students from distributing copies of the Constitution as well as the gospel tracts distributed by Leal.

Conrad Reynoldson, an attorney for Leal, said, “This ruling affects more than just our client, Michael. This decision sets important precedent for what limits on free speech in public schools are permissible and what are not. It is important for students to be able to express their point of view whether it is in the form of their own words or the words of our Founding Fathers.”

Brad Dacus, of the Pacific Justice Institute, who was also involved in the case, was likewise encouraged by the ruling. “For nearly half a century, the Supreme Court has declared that students’ constitutional rights do not end at the schoolhouse gate. That fundamental principle is being tested in this case.”

Dacus emphasized that this ruling does not threaten an orderly school. “To be clear, school authorities retain significant power to prevent substantial disruptions and maintain order and safety. Unfortunately, this school district crossed the line by restricting far more speech than was necessary and treating high schoolers more like inmates than the future leaders that they are.”

This case is concerning because it is further evidence that education at all levels is moving away from the free exchange of ideas in favor of policies designed to make sure no one is ever offended.

As a result, restrictions on free speech are becoming most common in the very institutions where allowing competing ideas to clash was the whole point.

There’s an important point about free speech worth underscoring.

Free speech laws exist only to protect offensive speech.  Why is this true?  Because only speech that someone finds offensive needs protection.  It is only when someone is offended by someone else’s speech that they would be tempted to take measures to silence it.

That is what tyrants have been doing for millennia and it’s what the authors of the Constitution sought to move away from when they drafted the First Amendment.

Someone is offending you and no one is trying to stop them? Good.  That means you are also free.

If your child is being told that it is their responsibility to enjoy and agree with the lesson on gender fluidity during class but they are not allowed to share their faith at school outside of class, don’t just take it. Let us know so we can help.

Abraham Lincoln once noted that, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

What a scary thought that is. But we may be closer than we think already.

Polling from last week suggests that huge numbers of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, would support bans on “hate speech”.

But for today, we can be thankful that in Judge Zilly’s court, the First Amendment still means something, even if that offends you.

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