Missouri and Florida students sue for right to distribute religious pamphlets on campus

It’s not just publications about sex, drugs and rock and roll that pit students against school officials.

Very often it’s the Bible.

Students in both Florida and Missouri sued their respective school administrators late this summer after they were forced to halt the on-campus distribution of religious materials. In Florida, students at Miami-Dade Community College say they were cornered and threatened with arrest by campus security officials in July after they sought to distribute a business-sized card to students outside of class that listed a telephone number to a local ministry, along with the words “The call you’ll never forget.”

In Missouri, 15-year-old Crystal Patterson, who is currently a high school freshman, sued Jefferson County Northwest School District and her former middle school principal in August claiming that the district violated her First Amendment rights when it prevented her from distributing a youth bible last spring. Patterson claims that her former principal unlawfully confiscated her property and police threatened her with arrest when she attempted to distribute a soft cover book called “The Truth for Youth,” which contains the 22 books of the New Testament as well as comic strips with religious messages, to other students before the start of the school day.

Students at both schools are challenging school policies that require students seeking to distribute non-school-sponsored material to first obtain administrative approval.

Courts across the country have been divided on the issue. The students in both cases are being represented by the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization in Orlando, Fla., that works to preserve religious freedoms.