So allege the plaintiffs in Freedom From Religious Foundation v. Orange County School Board (M.D. Fla.), filed last week, and the letter from the school board — Exhibit A — bears this out.
First, a bit of background. Some public schools have allowed religious groups to distribute Bibles at the school. This led to Establishment Clause lawsuits, on the theory that schools’ allowing such distribution (and not other distribution of other works) involved favoritism for religion. So a Florida school board in Collier County tried to deal with the objections — and with the requests from religious groups to continue the distribution — by setting up a “limited public forum” program in which any group is allowed to periodically bring material that students may pick up, except for material that
(i) promotes the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs; (ii) advertises products or services for sale; (iii) is not appropriate for the age and maturity of high school students; (iv) is pornographic, obscene or libelous; (v) violates intellectual property or privacy rights; (vi) advocates or is likely to incite imminent lawless action; or (vii) is likely to cause substantial disruption at the school despite the application of available discipline rules and procedures.
The material is supposed to be placed on tables, so that students can pick it up if they want to; the representatives of the donor organizations aren’t allowed to urge students to take the material, or to discuss the material with students. The defendant school board in this new case, Orange County School Board, has apparently implemented in a similar policy for high schools.
Now when the government opens up a “limited public forum” on its own property for speech, it may of course exclude (1) generally constitutionally unprotected material (such as the “obscene or libelous”) […]