LANCASTER – Two groups are suing the Antelope Valley Union High School District for allegedly not informing students about scholarships aimed at non-religious students.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, the Antelope Valley Freethinkers and the Freedom from Religion Foundation asked district officials to include descriptions of their competitive scholarships in lists distributed to students. But for the past two years the district has refused to publish scholarship opportunities offered by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Antelope Valley Freethinkers, the lawsuit alleges. [Read the complaint here.]
The Freedom from Religion Foundation planned to award more than $7,500 in scholarships to high school students in 2015, according to the suit. Its essay topics were “Young, Bold and Nonbelieving: Challenges of being a nonbeliever of color” and “Why I’m Good Without God: Challenges of being a young nonbeliever.”
The Antelope Valley Freethinkers planned to offer $1,750 to students who wrote essays about “being a young freethinker in Antelope Valley,” according to the suit.
Jeff Foster, a deputy superintendent with the district, told David Dionne, the Freethinker’s president, that the wording of their essays “would upset parents,” according to the suit.
Later, district officials told both the Freethinkers and the Freedom from Religion Foundation that their scholarships would not be advertised in school lists, the suit said.
District officials, however, allowed descriptions of overtly religious scholarships in their lists, including the “Playing with Purpose Award,” which requires applicants to describe “how and when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior,” according to Freedom from Religion officials.
The lawsuit argues that the district’s actions violated free speech laws.