In January 2010 Palm Desert High School announced a fundraiser for parents of graduates and other parents and community members. For a donation of $100 or more, donors could purchase a brick or bench, engraved with a message, that would become a permanent part of the campus. The order form did not specify restrictions on the messages.
Two community members paid for bricks to be enscribed with Bible verses. Later the financially-strapped school district notified the two Christian women that their bricks were rejected, citing “separation of church and state.” In response the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on the women’s behalf. In the lawsuit the plaintiffs noted that other religious messages had been accepted, including a Bible verse in Spanish and a Hindu quote from Mahatma Ghandi.
Last week the parties reached a settlement in which the school district refunded all of the money and destroyed the bricks and benches. Although their goal was to participate in the fundraiser — not to stop it — the plaintiffs are being blamed as selfish and un-Christian by many in the community for the loss of the $45,000 that the school district returned to the donors.
The ADF attorney said regarding the settlement, “Christians should be allowed to express themselves on public school campuses just like everyone else. It is cowardly to shut down everyone’s participation in this program simply out of animosity toward Christian speech. There is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about a Bible verse on a brick when a school opens up a program for anyone to express a personal message. The school could simply have allowed the Bible verses, but instead, it chose to punish everyone.”