LOS ANGELES (CN) — A school district in California’s high desert refused to include scholarship offers from atheist groups in the lists they distribute to students, the groups claim in court.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Antelope Valley Freethinkers sued Antelope Valley Union School Board and its High School District on constitutional grounds Tuesday in Federal Court. […]
The Freedom From Religion Foundation annually offers $17,950 in college scholarships, and the Antelope Valley Freethinkers offered $1,750 in scholarships to three winners.
Both groups asked applicants to submit an essay on the challenges of being a “nonbeliever” or “freethinker.”
Both say the school district and Palmdale High School refused to make their scholarship announcements available to students, though the district did announce other scholarship offers that “solicited religious speech, required applicants to be religious, and dealt with the historically controversial topics of homosexuality and guns.” […]
Freethinkers president David Dionne, a plaintiff, says in the lawsuit that Deputy Superintendent Jeff Foster told him that “he couldn’t approve the scholarship the way it was worded because it would upset some parents. In particular, he cited the following sentence as particularly objectionable: ‘Perhaps you’ve been ridiculed, harassed, or punished for speaking up against religion in the classroom, at school events, in government, or within your family.'”
When Dionne offered to rewrite his announcement, he says, Foster told him: “”We simply do not have the time to ‘word smith’ language that might be acceptable to the district and yet meet the intent of your organization.”