Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint Tuesday on behalf of a 10-year-old boy who was prohibited by his school principal from wearing a Jesus costume for the school's Halloween parade and party because the costume was religious. Abington Township School District officials allowed costumes portraying devils and witches on Halloween 2006 but prohibited one student from dressing as Jesus.
"For the school principal to censor this young student at Halloween because he was dressed as Jesus is patently ridiculous. It's yet another demonstration of just how hostile to Christianity public school officials have become," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "It is unconstitutional to single out Christian students for censorship."
School officials at Willow Hill Elementary School had required that students wear a costume at school on Halloween, or they would be isolated from the rest of the student body during the school's parade and party. The 10-year-old student and his mother, out of Christian conviction, sought to avoid promoting Halloween and its pagan elements and determined that by wearing a Jesus costume the student could accomplish this goal while avoiding the compelled isolation imposed on those not wearing a costume.
But on Oct. 31, Willow Hill Principal Dr. Patricia Whitmire told the fourth-grade student's mother that a Jesus costume would violate the school's religion policy. Whitmire required that the young student remove his "crown of thorns" and not identify himself as Jesus.
"Our client's teacher, perhaps missing the irony, suggested that he instead pretend to be a Roman emperor," Bowman noted.
Willow Hill Elementary School is part of the Abington Township School District, where Halloween is celebrated districtwide. Permitted costumes worn by other children within the school district this past Halloween included those of devils, witches, and a skeleton covered with blood.
A copy of the complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of Eastern Pennsylvania in EDT v. Abington Township School District can be read here.