'Jesus Tattoo' ad barred from school jumbotron

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LUBBOCK, Texas — A school district in Texas denied an ad for JesusTattoo.org because of its religious message even though the district permits other non-school-related organizations, including other religious groups, to advertise.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday on behalf of a community member and his organization over Lubbock Independent School District's refusal to display their faith-based ad on its jumbotron during high school football games.

 "No one deserves to be silenced simply for having a viewpoint that school officials don't favor," said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "When a school creates an opportunity for community advertising, it cannot single out religious messages for censorship. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their religious or political beliefs."

In October, Lubbock Independent School District denied the ad request from David L. Miller, founder of Little Pencil, LLC, an organization that promotes the Bible's teachings through contemporary marketing campaigns. The ad consists of the website address "jesustattoo.org" and an image of Jesus Christ wearing tattoos that represent the sins he bore on the cross. The site features a video that shows struggling individuals going to Jesus for help. Using a tattoo pen, Jesus changes their negative tattoos, representing their struggles, into positive ones.

The district explained to Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys that it denied Miller's request because the district, by its own policies and practices, "is prohibited from allowing religious advertisement with the use of government property based on the Establishment Clause." Despite the explanation, the district routinely permits various other faith-based, non-school-related organizations to advertise, such as Full Armor Ministries, Lubbock Christian University, Sunset Church of Christ's Just Kids Preschool, and Bethany Baptist Church. It also allows numerous non-religious, non-school-related organizations to advertise.

The lawsuit, Little Pencil v. Lubbock Independent School District, explains that "religious speech is fully protected by the First Amendment," and that "the government may not discriminate against private speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum in question."

"Christians should not be prevented from expressing their beliefs in public venues," added Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. "We hope that Lubbock Independent School District will revise its policy so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms."

Last year JesusTattoo.org had erected 59 billboards for a 30-day campaign throughout the city with the image of Jesus clad in tattoos.

"The message is a simple one, Jesus' love is transformative. He loves us unconditionally and no matter what you've been marked with, faith in Him and love for others will transform us," said Ashleigh Sawyer, media relations coordinator for Jesus Tattoo told Christian Post.