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Calif. teacher can pursue free-speech claim against district

By The Associated Press,
First Amendment Center Online staff
09.11.08

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge will allow a Christian math teacher to proceed with his free-speech lawsuit against his Southern California school district.

Westview High School teacher Bradley Johnson filed his federal lawsuit against the Poway Unified School District last year after he was told to remove classroom banners that include the words "God" and "Creator.” School officials told Bradley the banners promoted a "Judeo-Christian" viewpoint.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez’s 23-page ruling in Johnson v. Poway United School District means that Johnson may proceed with his lawsuit against the school district.

“By squelching Johnson’s Judeo-Christian religious viewpoint while promoting or permitting Buddhist, Islamic, and Tibetan religious viewpoints, Defendants’ acts clearly unjustifiably abridge Johnson’s constitutional free speech rights, ” Benitez wrote in the Sept. 4 ruling.

The seven-foot banners include "In God We Trust" and "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator."

Benitez refused the district’s request to dismiss the case, saying the banners provide "healthy exposure" to diverse ideas.

“By squelching only Johnson’s patriotic expression, the school district does a disservice to the students of Westview High School and the federal and state constitutions do not permit such one-sided censorship,” the judge wrote.


Related

Federal judge backs school’s ban of anti-gay T-shirt

Ruling is based on 9th Circuit decision that found message on Tyler Harper's shirt infringed upon the rights of other students 'in the most fundamental way.' 02.14.08

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