Pennsylvania high school’s ‘Bible ban’ is unconstitutional, students say

A group of Christian students at a Pennsylvania high school said they are fighting for their right to free speech after being told they cannot hand out Bibles to their friends during lunchtime.

In November, the Bible club at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School was denied a request to pass out Bibles at school. The club said the school has until Monday to rescind the ban.

"We're hoping not to sue," said Jeremy Samek, senior counsel for the Independence Law Center, which is representing the students.

Samek said the school's ban is unconstitutional.

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"The school has told these students that they cannot distribute Bibles to their classmates at any time during the school day, but students don’t lose their constitutional rights to speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate," he told Fox News. "Schools certainly have the right to limit it to non-instructional times and reasonable places but not to institute absolute bans during the school day, which is what they’ve done here."

This isn't the first time the Bible club has clashed with Davis Harris, the school's principal. FOX 43 reports this is the third time in the last two years the club has asked the law center for help to resolve problems at the school. Samek called it a "concerning" pattern.

The Bible club said it followed school policy and submitted a written request to hand out Bibles. The school responded that it could not do so during school hours.

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The Mechanicsburg Area School District (MASD) told Fox News in a statement that it was aware of the situation and was investigating the matter.

"MASD respects the rights of students to express themselves and distribute materials. MASD also recognizes that exercise of that right must be limited by the district’s responsibility to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights of all members of the school community," the statement reads, in part.

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The district said students are allowed to distribute non-school materials both before and after school.

Samek told Fox News the school is not following its own written policy, which complies with constitutional law, adding that under the constitution, nothing can be denied unless it's part of a small subset of unprotected speech, like pornography or obscenity, which he says is not the case here.

"This doesn’t just affect the Bible club students," Samek said, "this affects all students."