Scripture verse pavers pulled from school walkway

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PALM DESERT, Calif. — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Desert Sands Unified School District Board of Education in Palm Desert, Calif. for blocking brick pavers from being installed on school property with Christian messages.

Lou Ann Hart and Sheryl Caronna had purchased brick pavers at a fundraiser in February for a new walkway at Palm Desert High School. According to Alliance Defense Fund Attorney David Cortman, no limitations were given as to the content of the messages on the pavers — other than the length — and the fundraiser policy stated that the messages could be used to pay tribute, create a legacy, commemorate a special event, or give recognition to various entities. 

After purchasing the brick pavers, the women engraved Scripture verses on them.

The bricks were engraved with verses including, "…be kind to each other…forgive one another. Eph. 5:32" and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart & lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 The Caronna Family," according to the complaint.

In August, after the bricks were made, but before they were installed on the new campus' walkway, Hart and Caronna were notified that their pavers' inclusion on the walkway was denied because they quoted Bible verses.

School officials said that the Bible verses used by the women would establish an unconstitutional establishment of religion despite the fact that they had accepted hundreds of other pavers with inspirational and religious messages.

"Christians shouldn't be discriminated against and excluded from expressing their faith on public high school campuses when that door of communication is open to virtually everyone else," Cortman said.

 "Christians have the same First Amendment-protected rights as everyone else does on public school campuses, and their messages are no less worthy of exposure than other individuals," he continued.

In November, ADF attorneys sent a letter on behalf of Hart and Caronna to school officials, informing them that their denial violated the constitutional rights of the women and requested a copy of the paver fundraiser policies, denial communications, and a list of all other approved brick inscriptions. The officials denied the request for the documents and also refused a second request for the documents in December. 

Hart's five bricks and Caronna's larger brick remain uninstalled.

ADF attorneys contend that the school has accepted hundreds of other messages similar to Hart's and Caronna's, including other religious quotes.

The lawsuit Hart v. Tomack was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.


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