• Public schools, religion clash in Seattle federal court

    By: Essex Porter

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Public schools and religion clashed in federal court in Seattle Wednesday.         

    Cascade High School senior Michael Leal spent an hour in court while lawyers argued over his right to distribute religious literature at school.

    “I want to get the Gospel forth in school through Gospel tracts,” Leal said after the hearing.

    Leal has been suspended for distributing Christian pamphlets, and preaching to students during breaks.

    According to court documents, the Everett School District policy allows him to hand out only original material that he has written, not any preprinted religious tracts.

    “That would make it so he could not write out the First Amendment or the Constitution and hand it to people. That is an obvious problem,” said Leal’s attorney, Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute.

    "Students don't lose their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door," said federal Judge Thomas Zilly while hearing oral arguments.

    The district says current school policy limits the distribution of literature to campus entrances and exits and only before and after school. The policy is designed to promote order, safety and learning.

    Judge Zilly said he'll likely issue a ruling in two to three weeks.

    Leal plans to be a missionary when he graduates this spring.

    Appeals could take this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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