'Candy Cane' Card Cleared for Christian Club's Campus Christmas Cause
by Jim Brown and Jody Brown
December 17, 2004
(AgapePress) - In a dramatic about-face, a Wisconsin school district has reversed its decision to bar high school students from handing out Christmas cards containing the story of the religious origins of the candy cane. That reversal derailed a federal lawsuit at the last minute.
The West Bend Joint School District recently averted the lawsuit by allowing the Christmas cards to be distributed. District Superintendent David Shapley initially told five members of a high school Christian student club that the card could not be passed out to their classmates because of its religious message. As explained in the card, the candy cane was shaped like a "J" to represent the name of Jesus.
"The color white stands for the pureness of Jesus. The color red represents the blood of Jesus shed for us," the card read, concluding with a "Merry Christmas" wish to the reader. Permission to distribute the card was first denied by Principal Cassandra Schug, and then by Shapley.
The five students sought legal advice from Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which received no response from the district school board to a faxed letter earlier this month. The legal firm began to prepare a lawsuit, and planned to file that lawsuit on the morning of December 14. But Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver says the district backed down at the eleventh hour.
"We literally were at the airport, ready to board a flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to file this lawsuit the very next morning, when the school district's attorney called and said the issue would be resolved, at least for now," Staver explains. "We don't know whether this is going to be a temporary resolution, but at least for now they'll be able to distribute their Christmas cards."
Staver says his group will continue to monitor the situation to gauge whether the students are discriminated against in the future regarding their request to distribute other religious cards. The attorney says there is no shortage of such discrimination cases.
"I think it's an important aspect of this time of year not to sit idly by while grinches all over America steal Christmas," he advises. "Indeed, Christmas is constitutional." To allow the celebration of only the secular aspects of Christmas, he says, "shows hostility, rather than neutrality" toward religion.
"Those who try to censor the religious aspect of Christmas, thinking that they're honoring the Constitution, in fact violate the same Constitution by discriminating against the religious viewpoint," Staver points out.
The Liberty Counsel head says his group is currently engaged in an all-out effort to counteract the misinformation campaign being waged by the American Civil Liberties Union and other opponents of religious expression. That effort, known as the "Friend or Foe" campaign, seeks to be a "friend" to those entities allowing for the constitutionally protected right of expression, but will also be a "foe" to those organizations who attempt to suppress such liberties.