Supreme Court asked to hear appeal in religious candy cane case from N.J.

A civil-liberties organization asked the U.S. SupremeCourt on Dec. 29 to review the case of a pre-kindergarten student whose schoolprohibited him from distributing pencils and candy canes with religious messagesto his classmates.

The case is a battle over whether elementary schoolstudents have the right to freely express themselves inside the classroom orwhether schools are justified in restricting student speech in such asetting.

The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based group that arguesreligious freedom cases nationwide, contends that an Egg Harbor Townshipelementary school violated Daniel Walz’s free speech rights and discriminatedagainst him because of his religious-themed holiday gifts. In April 1998, theschool prevented Walz from distributing pencils that read “Jesus loves littlechildren” and candy canes attached to a short religious story. 

Theschool district argues that its actions were a reasonable attempt to preventdisruption of the classroom’s learning environment and that it was not anappropriate place for the student’s proselytizing. Two lower courts have sidedwith the school.