Court Sides with Student on Right to Wear Scripture-Bearing Shirt
By Jim Brown
August 19, 2005
(AgapePress) - A federal judge has told an Ohio school district it can no longer bar a middle school student from wearing a t-shirt with a Christian message.
Judge George Smith has ruled that Sheridan Middle School in Thornville violated the constitutional rights of student James Nixon by prohibiting him from wearing a t-shirt bearing a quote from the Bible verse John 14:6. The front of the shirt reads: "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'" The back of the shirt contains the statements: "Homosexuality is sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder."
Although no complaints were filed over Nixon's t-shirt, a few school officials -- described by the student's attorney as "overzealous" -- deemed its message may be "offensive" to some individuals and "potentially disruptive," and thus could not be displayed.
Nixon's attorney, James Nelson of the Orlando-based American Liberties Institute, says the decision handed down by Judge Smith has a "broad, sweeping significance," especially for students in the southern district of Ohio, many of whom he says were watching for the outcome.
"Other students and parents had been waiting for this decision to know whether or not their own children and students may now wear their shirts," Nelson shares.
Nelson asserts the judge's ruling sets a persuasive precedent. "We believe that Judge Smith really worked through the issues well, in a way that some courts don't," the attorney says. "He truly picked apart the precedent and the cases from the Supreme Court and other jurisdictions and tried to make a very comprehensive and coherent opinion which could be utilized by other courts across the country."
The attorney feels that due to the jurisdiction of Smith's court over other schools and school districts, the ruling will allow students to freely express their viewpoint on the same issues and to wear the same t-shirt to school.