December 12, 2008
Supreme Court declines to hear 'candy cane' speech case
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal in a case involving a Michigan fifth-grader who tried to sell candy canes with a religious message at his school.
The high court on Monday denied the petition that the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund filed on behalf of Joel Curry.
Curry was 11 in 2003 when he made candy cane-style Christmas ornaments with notes that school officials considered "religious literature." The notes attached to the ornaments, titled "The Meaning of the Candy Cane," referred to Jesus six times and God twice.
Curry copied the message from an ornament at a Christian bookstore. He made the ornaments as part of a class project in which students developed and sold products. He faced no discipline, though school officials told him to remove the message, and received an `A' on the assignment.
Now a 15-year-old high school sophomore, Curry said he was disappointed in the high court's ruling, but the incident happened "a long time ago" and he doesn't "think about it much" anymore.
"They should have heard it because it's an important issue involving the Constitution and people's First Amendment right to freedom of speech," he said.
The Alliance Defense Fund had asked the high court to "consider whether a fifth-grade student's religious expression on a classroom project may be categorically identified as `offensive' and therefore legitimately censored by state school officials."
ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Saginaw School District and Curry's principal in 2004, claiming that the principal violated the Constitution's equal protection clause because, in the past, she allowed other students to sell religious-themed items.
In September 2006, a federal judge ruled that the principal violated Curry's First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel for the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed that decision.