This is the famous “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pencils case. Four families challenged the constantly changing policies of the Plano Independent School District that governed student distribution of written materials. The district court ruled in favor of the school district on some points and in favor of the parents on other points. In turn, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision on some points and reversed it on others.
In her valedictorian speech, Erica Corder mentioned Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. In retaliation her school told her she would not receive her diploma until she publicly apologized. She sued the district for violation of her rights of free speech, free exercise of religion, and related rights. Unfortunately, both the district court and the court of appeals ruled in favor of the school district.
Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) is a private organization that receives some funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky for its services to at-risk children. After KBHC fired a lesbian employee for violation of its religious beliefs, she—along with another lesbian who claimed that she wanted to apply for employment but would not because it would be futile—sued KBHC for employment discrimination and sued Kentucky officials along with KBHC for violating the Establishment Clause.
Parents of public school children sued, alleging the Texas Moment of Silence law violated the Establishment Clause because it mentioned that children could silently pray among other choices. Both the district court and the court of appeals ruled against the parents and upheld the law.
The city of Pittsburg passed a ordinance that created both a 15-foot buffer zone and a 100-foot bubble zone around hospitals and abortion clinics. A pro-life protester challenged the ordinance under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In a complicated ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the combination of the two zones was unconstitutional, while ruling against the protester on some other arguments.
As explained by the court:
“When defendant Department of Civil Service announced that it would recognize the parties to a same-sex marriage as spouses if their marriage were valid in the jurisdiction where it was solemnized, thereby allowing such spouses of state employees access to the benefits provided under the New York State Health Insurance Program . . . plaintiffs commenced this action as individual taxpayers seeking a declaration that the Department’s recognition of such marriages is illegal, unconstitutional and results in the unlawful disbursement of public funds.”
There are two arguments being addressed: First, the City of Zachary is squelching free speech and the Court below appropriately issued a preliminary injunction, enjoining this violation of Mr. Netherland’s constitutional rights. Second, the District Court correctly noted that the protestors in Ovadal were protesting on a pedestrian overpass and the police were called because the signs were causing traffic problems. The District Court reasoned that there was a significant difference between holding a sign on an overpass, and speaking on an open easement.