The Mesa/Tempe Tribune Newspapers/March 19, 1992, The Associated Press
A chapter of an evangelical church has sued the Prescott unified School District, saying a district policy restricting church members from distributing religious tracts at schools is unconstitutional.
After receiving complaints that members of the Potter’s House Christian Center were passing out religious literature on campus, the district Board of Education passed a policy by unanimous vote Feb. 10.
The policy prohibits students from distributing non-school related literature or proselytizing at campus locations not approved beforehand by school officials. Students face detention and possible suspension for violation of the policy.
U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield on Friday will hold a hearing in Prescott on whether to grant a temporary restraining order prohibiting the school from enforcing the policy.
“I don’t think the school district understands the First Amendment,” said David Palmer jr., Attorney for the Potter’s House.
Palmer said the U.S. Supreme Court has already addressed this issue of students rights in the 1969 landmark case Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District. That case regarded students who were suspended for wearing black arm bands in protest of the Vietnam War.
William Bronson, spokesman for the 500-member Potter’s House, said, “It’s as if these local bureaucrats react to us as if we are barking dogs, a nuisance in which they can just pass a law. They fail to understand there are underlying principles at stake here.”
The suit filed Monday claims the policy not only infringes on First Amendment rights of members of the church, but also violates the Equal Access Act which says that if a federally funded school allows one type of noncurriculum activity, it must allow all such activities.
The suit names as well three Prescott High School students as plaintiffs. Prescott High Principle Glen Treadaway and district Superintendent James Howard are among a number of district officials named as defendants.
Howard and Yavapai County Attorney Chick Hastings declined to comment on the case, but Hastings did say he believed the district was within its rights to pass such a policy.