Yearbook’s Removal of ‘God’ Costs School Thousands
Christian Post Reporter
An award-winning high school yearbook agreed Thursday to put “God” back into a parent-purchased ad after a legal group put forward a complaint disputing the word’s removal and replacement.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties, had asked Liberty Union High School in Brentwood, Calif., to correct a change that was made to the ad’s content, which was modified as part of the school’s stance to cut religious subject matter. The staff had removed religious content from other congratulatory ads as well.
“It’s surprising that some school officials seem to think they can censor religious viewpoints out of a privately-sponsored yearbook ad,” said Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel of Pacific Justice Institute, in a statement prior to the recent decision. “We hope this was simply an aberration, and that the Superintendent will act swiftly to recognize their error and remove the illegal censorship they have placed on these parents’ message.”
The problem began when Jeff and Jules Renner bought a space within the yearbook to pay tribute to their graduating son. The ad read “May God bless your life” but was changed to “May He bless your life.”
The father contacted the Pacific Justice Institute about the situation, which then sent a letter to Liberty Union’s superintendent stating that the school was violating the parents’ First Amendment right to express their views in public. The group then noted that legal action would take place if the change was not corrected.
“The courts have consistently chided school officials who seek to ban all mention of God from our schools,” noted Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, in a statement. “Separation of church and state simply does not prevent private individuals from expressing their faith, even in the public school context.”
In an attempt to resolve the issue, the district superintendent met with Jeff Renner. The district initially offered to refund the $175 used to buy the ad, unsure at the time whether they would reprint or not.
“It would be nice to be able to give in to all the wishes of parents,” explained Tim Halloran, principal of Liberty Union, in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Unfortunately we can’t. Although in this case, it might be that we spend the money.”
In the end, Liberty Union agreed to the modifications, and will have to partially reprint the yearbooks, costing a sum of $8,000. The high school had actually recently changed its stance on allowing religious content about two weeks ago. This came before the books were printed, however, so they could not go back and change anything.
Their original position was to ban references to drugs, alcohol, violence, gangs and religion.
“Whether it’s Allah or God or Jesus, people can have issues with it,” Halloran added, according to the Chronicle.
In 2006, the Liberty Union yearbook won first prize from the American Scholastic Press Association.
It has used parent-purchased ads to help reduce the price of their yearbook to students ($65), which is much lower than most California schools.