In response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Morgan V. Plano Independent School District, known nationwide as the “candy cane” case, Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute released the following statement:
“We are encouraged that the Court rejected the principals’ argument that elementary students have no First Amendment protection and ruled that the principals did indeed violate the Constitution by censoring the religious speech of students.
However, we are disappointed that the Court decided not to hold the school principals responsible for their violation of the law. That part of the ruling sends the wrong message to students that those responsible for teaching them good citizenship are not held responsible for violating the law.”
Morgan v. Plano Independent School District, involves students and families, represented by Liberty Institute, who were denied their free speech rights and who were discriminated against because their speech was religious in nature, including a young boy who was singled out and banned from handing out candy cane pens with a religious message at his class “winter” party, a little girl who was threatened for handing out tickets after school to a religious play, and an entire class of kids who were forbidden from writing “Merry Christmas” on holiday cards to American troops serving overseas. On appeal, the government officials argued that elementary students are too young to have First Amendment rights.
Sixteen judges sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in this case last May, overturning the three-judge panel that ruled last year two principals could be held personally liable. Two former U.S. Solicitors General, Paul Clement and Kenneth Starr, now president of Baylor University, joined Liberty Institute by arguing for the students.
This case has been in litigation for nine years, and will now move to the as-applied allegation, which, if proven, the court ruled would be violations of the Constitution. Liberty Institute will also examine whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeal on the two principals.