Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a request for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday, November 12th 2014. The injunction, if granted, will prohibit the West Covina Unified School District from stopping seven-year-old Isaiah Martinez from passing out candy canes to his classmates with the candy cane legend attached during the Christmas season.
Last Christmas, Isaiah Martinez took Christmas gifts intended for his first grade teacher and classmates at Merced Elementary in the West Covina Unified School District. Each gift consisted of a traditional candy cane with a message attached that recited the legend of the candy cane. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ.
When Isaiah brought his Christmas gift to school, his teacher took possession of the candy canes. At the direction of the school principal, the teacher instructed Isaiah that “Jesus is not allowed in school” and she removed the candy cane messages from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and handed the candy canes back to Isaiah for delivery to his classmates. Isaiah then nervously handed the candy canes to his classmates in fear that he was in trouble for trying to bring a little Christmas cheer and “good tidings” to class.
The case is already in federal court after the parents of Isaiah Martinez felt the school violated their son’s right to freedom of religious speech.
Robert Tyler, lawyer and General Counsel, explained their decision to file a federal law suit saying, “the school has neglected to correct its actions, and after exhausting all options to avoid a lawsuit we were left with no choice but to file a complaint in federal court. We are asking the court to protect Isaiah’s rights and the rights of others like him from having their religious speech censored. Students do not shed their First Amendment rights just because they enter into a classroom.”
In January the story garnered attention from major news outlets including Fox, Univision, and NBC.
Attorney James A. Long, legal counsel with Advocates explains the injunction is necessary “because the West Covina Unified School District has made clear that the only theology allowed in the classroom is the government’s theology, it has given every indication that it will again prohibit Isaiah from passing out the candy cane legend at his school’s holiday party in the name of ‘religious neutrality,’ Isaiah’s constitutional rights will be violated again this year unless the Federal Court grants Advocates’ request for a preliminary injunction.”
Advocates claims the school has no legally viable reason for suppression of the speech, such as disruption, profanity or vulgarity or evidence that the schools conduct would be seen as advocating a particular religion.