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Court Upholds Rutherford Institute Case

By Editorial Staff
Published January 2, 1988

Reiterating that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech … at the schoolhouse gate,” a U.S. district court on December 4, l987, ordered Pennsylvania school officials to allow three students to distribute a religious newspaper in their junior high school.

“Free speech is one of the most protected clauses in the Constitution,” said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and one of the attorneys who successfully defended the students. The Virginia-based nonprofit organization specializes in the defense of religious groups and individuals.

Bryan Thompson, Marc Shunk and Christopher Eakle, currently ninth-graders at Antietam Junior High School in Waynesboro, were suspended two years ago when they passed out copies of Issues and Answers in the school hallways before class. Issues and Answers is a free monthly newspaper published by Student Action for Christ.

The three students and their parents, represented by Rutherford attorney Larry Crain, later sued the Waynesboro school district, charging infringement of their First Amendment rights.

While school officials may lawfully impose “content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions” on students’ free speech activities, Judge Sylvia Rambo stated that testimony by Antietam principal Robert Mesaros “indicates that the religious content of the paper definitely influenced” the decision to ban its distribution. Mesaros admitted in his deposition that he feared some parents would object to their children’s exposure to the newspaper.

Judge Rambo, however, quoting from a 1969 Supreme Court ruling, pointed out that banning “a particular expression of opinion” had to be justified by “something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.”

Judge Rambo’s November 24 opinion rejected the school district’s claim that permitting students to hand out Issues and Answers would imply that the school endorsed religion, in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The judge reasoned that since administrators already permitted other student clubs to meet in the school, “passive accommodation of one more group that was organized on the basis of religious interest would not have the effect of advancing religion.” The students would simply be allowed “to avail themselves” of the limited public forum set up by the school “to promote the intellectual and social development of its students,” Rambo stated.

School officials are expected to appeal the court’s decision, but Rutherford attorneys expressed confidence that the ruling will hold up. “Judge Rambo provided a thorough analysis of the free speech issue,” Whitehead said, “and it gives good grounds for success on appeal.”


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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

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Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

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Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

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Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

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The Abortion Matrix DVD: Update

The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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