.- Parents and students have filed a federal lawsuit against a public school district in Plano, Tex., after it informed its schools of a ban on candy canes with religious messages, pencils with the name “Jesus” on them, and red- and green-colored decorations at holiday parties, reported AgapePress. The matter has also sparked an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"These government officials have lost all common sense. Our schools are not zones of religious censorship," said Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Legal Institute.
The institute filed the lawsuit against the Plano Independent School District on behalf of the parents Dec 15. Shackelford said school officials have violated the constitutional rights of students and their parents.
The attorney said he does not expect school officials to support or endorse religion, "but they can't ban students and parents from celebrating the holidays and expressing themselves in accordance with their beliefs."
The following day, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was opening an investigation into the charges brought by the lawsuit.
In a letter to Liberty Legal, the Department of Justice explained that it is authorized to intervene in legal actions against public school districts that allege a "denial of equal protection of the laws on the basis of religion."
In an Associated Press report, school district attorney Richard Abernathy denied the claims in the lawsuit, and said school officials recently decided to allow the distribution of all materials at holiday parties. The attorneys were surprised by that statement, saying neither students nor parents were informed of such a change.
“If that is true, that is great," said Shackelford.