Floyd, VA – Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the Floyd County High School administration, requesting the reversal of their censorship of religious material posted by school students on the face of the students’ lockers. On February 23, Jacob Agee and other students who are members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes posted copies of the Ten Commandments on the face of their assigned lockers. Very quickly thereafter, Principal Barry Hollandsworth and Assistant Principal Tony Deibler removed each copy. Jacob then met with Principal Hollandsworth, who explained that he could not permit students to use the face of their lockers for religious expression because if he did, students of all religions could use their lockers for religious expressions of their respective religions.
These acts of censorship violate the students’ right to free speech. Students at the school are generally permitted to decorate the faces of their assigned lockers without prior approval of staff or administrators. However, school officials now say that prior approval is necessary for student expressions on their assigned lockers, so that they can censor religious viewpoints. A tour of the school would quickly reveal a variety of student expressions of school spirit, support of activities, birthday well wishes, social causes, and so on. In this case, the school has opened up student lockers for student expression and is monitoring and censoring religious speech.
There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion and student speech endorsing religion. While a school could prohibit all stickers on student lockers, school officials cannot selectively discriminate against religious viewpoints while allowing other secular viewpoints. This is, in fact, what the school has done in this case.
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, stated, “Liberty Counsel stands ready to defend the legal rights of students and members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Floyd County High School. The school officials censored the Ten Commandments from the students’ lockers solely because they deemed them to be religious and thus impermissible. Censoring religious viewpoints of students, while permitting secular viewpoints, violates the First Amendment. Floyd County school officials must immediately reverse course.”