School Sued for Refusing Tattooed Jesus
LUBBOCK, Texas (CN) - The Lubbock, Texas school district illegally refuses to display ads of a tattooed Jesus on a Jumbotron at high school football games, a politically connected appointee claims in Federal Court.
Little Pencil LLC and its "sole and managing member," David Miller, sued the Lubbock Independent School District on constitutional claims.
Miller describes himself in the lawsuit as the "Vice Chancellor of Research and Commercialization at Texas Tech University from 2007-2011." He says he "has been appointed to two state committees by Governor Rick Perry, including the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which he chairs, and the Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board."
The complaint continues: "Mr. Miller is the founding member of Little Pencil, LLC, serves as its sole and managing member, runs it according to his religious faith, and makes all business decisions according to his sincerely held religious beliefs.
"Mr. Miller is an adherent of the Christian faith and is called by God to share his religious views with as many people as possible."
Miller says his tattooed Jesus, included in the lawsuits, is "a new way to share the Bible's teachings through contemporary marketing methods."
Miller claims the public school district unconstitutional discriminated against him by refusing to display his ad on the Jumbotron at Lowrey Field and PlainsCapital Park. He claims that other nonschool organizations, including churches, are allowed to advertise at school district sports venues.
"This unequal treatment of plaintiffs' religious expression is a content-based restriction in an otherwise open forum," the 30-page complaint states. "The district's denial of plaintiffs' religious advertisement is also unlawful viewpoint discrimination because it solicits advertisements from religious groups, like churches, and has permitted other religious advertisers, like Lubbock Christian University, Full Armor Ministries, Just Kids Preschool (which is operated by Sunset Church of Christ), and Bethany Baptist Church to access the forum and engage in religious expression, yet has barred plaintiffs from doing the same."
Miller claims the district does not have adequate guidelines for its officials to follow in deciding which advertisements to grant or deny, "thereby granting district officials unbridled discretion to accept or reject private expression protected by the First Amendment."
Before suing, Miller claims, he asked for access to the electric billboard, but the district refused, claims that it is "is prohibited from allowing religious advertisement with the use of government property based on the Establishment Clause."
Lubbock ISD Superintendent Berhl Robertson Jr. declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
"We cannot comment on potential pending litigation, but we would always prefer to spend tax dollars in classrooms rather than courtrooms," Robertson told KCBD-TV, and NBC affiliate.
Miller seeks injunctive and declaratory relief for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. He is represented by Robert Hogan.