High School Censors Pro-Life Group’s Flyers With Mother Teresa as “Too Controversial”

State   Steven Ertelt   Oct 13, 2015   |   12:46PM    Union, KY

A Kentucky high school is under fire for censoring flyers from a pro-life student group, including one depicting Mother Teresa, as “too controversial.”

Larry A. Ryle High School senior Patrick Edwards (pictured) attempted to put up flyers with a positive pro-life message (see flyers here). But the high school’s principal told him that they had to be approved first. Edwards submitted seven flyers and the principal denied six of them, deeming them “too controversial” and fearing that pro-choice students would feel discriminated against. The censor flyers contained quotes from Mother Teresa and Steve Jobs.

“Other student clubs and students have been allowed to post flyers taking various positions and I was specifically told my flyers could not be posted because the issue was too controversial,” said Edwards. “I believe it’s important to be able to share positive pro-life messages with my peers, especially with students who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy or know someone who is. Our aim is never to discriminate but to lovingly present the pro-life message and make a positive impact on our school community.”

Ryle High School principal Matthew Turner has received a demand letter from Students for Life of America on behalf of Patrick Edwards, a senior at Ryle HS. Alliance Defending Freedom affiliates and attorneys at Hemmer DeFrank Wessels in Fort Mitchell, KY, Todd V. McMurtry and Kyle M. Winslow, signed the letter, which charges that Turner has unconstitutionally discriminated against Patrick and the Ryle Students for Life club by censoring the placement of pro-life flyers throughout the school.

The demand letter seeks an immediate stop to the censorship of the Ryle Students for Life club and the approval of all the flyers that the club wants to put up around the school.  The school has allowed flyers for all sorts of other clubs and students at the school while denying the flyers that Ryle Students for Life wants to put up.

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“The law does not permit a principal to ban speech simply because, in his subjective opinion, the speech is too controversial,” said Kyle Winslow, attorney at Hemmer DeFrank Wessels and affiliate of Alliance Defending Freedom.  “Ryle High School’s censorship of Patrick clearly violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and must end.”

As the demand letter states, the school’s denial of the Students for Life club’s flyers is a violation of the students’ rights under both the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Students for Life of America requests that the school immediately allow the flyers to be placed in the school and that the Ryle Students for Life club be treated the same as any other club at the school.

The head of Students for Life says the censorship is discrimination.

“By actively denying Patrick his right to put up pro-life flyers on behalf of the Ryle Students for Life club because they promote the pro-life message is outright discrimination,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “The school has no right to censor a message because they deem it to be controversial, as is the case with Mr. Turner at Ryle High School. Unfortunately the school administration has failed to uphold the free speech rights of Patrick and we had to seek legal assistance to make sure that his rights are upheld.”

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