(CN) – Two Christian families in Florida say their county school board unconstitutionally denied their children the right to wear T-shirts advertising their church and proclaiming, “Islam is of the Devil.”
The families sued the Alachua County School Board in Gainesville Federal Court, saying their 5th- to 10th-grade kids are “entitled to exercise their First Amendment right to express their religious beliefs and, as a part of that expression, speak about Islam.”
Wayne and Stephanie Sapp and Ludger and Heike Boecken demand declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of their six minor children attending various schools in the public school district.
The families are both members of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville. The kids wore the T-shirts as a group on the first day of school in August.
The church displays a sign that says “Islam is of the Devil” on its grounds and sells the T-shirts through its Web site, according to the federal complaint and the church’s Web site.
The parents say the shirts caused no disruption, but that “starting the second day of school, the student plaintiffs who wore these T-shirts were subjected to disciplinary actions by school officials, ranging from requiring the student to change or cover up the T-shirt to suspension.”
The students were kicked out of a school football game in October for wearing the shirts, the parents say.
They claim the school district’s dress code is overly broad, and gives administrators too much power to decide what is “offensive to others” and what is “positive.”
“At issue in this case is whether school officials may lawfully prohibit non-vulgar and non-obscene student religious expression at school or school events because such speech may be offensive to others,” the lawsuit states.
Also “at issue in this case is whether school officials may lawfully permit what they consider to be ‘positive’ messages about religion, faith or other matters while prohibiting what they consider to be ‘negative’ messages about those same matters.”
The parents want the court to declare district’s dress policy unconstitutional and let their children wear the shirts.
They are represented by Randall C. Marshall of the American Civil Liberties Union in Miami.