Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A former high school student in San Diego has filed a federal lawsuit against the Grossmont Union High School District, claiming that administrators told him last year that he could not bring his Bible to school or preach to his fellow students:

The conflict for Kenneth Dominguez began when he returned from Christmas break in January 2010 and began telling his fellow students about his Christian faith. On several occasions he was reprimanded for doing so and eventually he was told not to bring his Bible to school. An administrator told him that he could not share his Christian faith with fellow students or bring his Bible to school because of separation of church and state. When he continued to discuss his faith and bring his Bible to school he was given a 2 day suspension on February 18, 2010.

The school gave him a form known as a “Corrective Education Referral Form,” which had the following notations:

• “Student was told to stop preaching at school. Student continued after being warned several times.”
• “Student will not bring Bible to school.”

If that’s true, the school is likely in big trouble in the case. But the school tells a different story:

An attorney for Kenneth Dominguez, 16, said the Grossmont Union High School District infringed on his client’s Constitutional rights. However, an attorney representing the district countered that Dominguez was suspended because of “an incredible amount of disruptive behavior,” not because of his religious fervor.

The case, which is attracting attention in the Christian community, is taking place in a district that is run by a board dominated by religious conservatives…

Dan Shinoff, an attorney representing Grossmont Union, said Dominguez has a record of disruptive behavior, that he was interrupting class and that the school district is committed to upholding the religious freedoms of all its students. Shinoff also said that Dominguez was never prohibited from bringing his Bible to school.

“This issue has nothing to do with this young man’s religious viewpoints,” Shinoff said. “There is absolute respect by the board, the Superintendent, the principal and the teacher for the freedom of religion that is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The disconnect appears to be one of whether the school ensures learning occurs in a non-disruptive environment.

“The evidence suggests there was an incredible amount of disruptive behavior.”

This, of course, is why trials are held. Whichever side is correct should be able to document their position in depositions, affidavits and exhibits. The one thing that makes me doubt this story is that he is represented by the Pacific Justice Institute, which isn’t exactly the most credible of the religious right legal groups. I’d find it more believable if it was the Alliance Defense Fund, simply because they tend to be more careful about the free speech and free exercise cases they bring to court than the PJI is.

But as I said, the truth should come out in court. This will be an interesting case to watch.