Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari in the so-called Candy Cane Case, Doug Morgan, et al. v. Lynn Swanson, et al. On Sept. 27, 2011, public school administrators won before the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that two elementary school principals are immune from suit for allegedly preventing students from distributing religious gifts at school.
The students and their parents sued the principals alleging religious freedom and First Amendment violations. The gifts, which were meant to be distributed at an on-campus winter party in the Plano Independent School District, included candy cane-shaped pens. Attached to the pens were laminated cards titled "Legend of the Candy Cane" and text discussing the "Christian origin of candy canes," the plaintiffs alleged in their brief to the en banc 5th Circuit.
The 5th Circuit found that the educators deserved immunity “because clearly established law did not put the constitutionality of their actions beyond debate." So the students and parents sought cert at the Supreme Court.
Tom Brandt, a partner in Dallas’ Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin who represents the defendant principals in the case, is pleased the high court decided not to grant review. “The law was not clear and the individuals as a result are entitled to immunity. And even to this date, there is still a measure of lack of clarity,” Brandt says. “But it’s a great day for my clients and really a great day for educators in general.”
Hiram Sasser, director of the Liberty Institute, a Plano-based religious freedom organization that represents the plaintiffs in Morgan, says, “We’re disappointed to not have the opportunity to hold the government school officials accountable for their violations of the law.”
-- John Council