The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear oral arguments in the so-called "candy cane" case, clearing two Texas school principals of claims they restricted the free speech of students who wanted to distribute religious-themed gifts.
“We are disappointed The Supreme Court denied review of this case,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation of the Liberty Institute, which has represented the parents and students in the case. “We were hoping to finally put this issue to rest: that government school officials should be held accountable when they violate the law and students’ First Amendment rights. No student should be subjected to religious discrimination by the government.”
Meanwhile, attorneys for the principals being sued said the ruling shows the case is not about First Amendment rights.
"There have been a number of people and organizations who have characterized this as a seminal First Amendment decision," said attorney Tom Brandt. "However, as the court has shown us in today's decision, the core legal question was not about freedom of expression, but about the necessary protections for two outstanding educators."
While the immunity issue is closed, other parts of the case are still to be decided at the appellate and district court levels. A majority of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the principals went too far and may have violated the children's free-speech rights.
The case, which has come to symbolize what many call "the war on Christmas," originated in 2003 when third-grade student, Jonathan Morgan, brought candy cane-shaped pens to school to hand them out to his fellow classmates during a “winter party” at Thomas Elementary School in Plano, Texas, according to the Christian Post. The pens had religious messages attached to them, explaining the Christian origin of candy canes.
An entire class was also prohibited from writing "Merry Christmas" on cards to American troops serving overseas.
The Liberty Institute says the case "has affected change throughout the nation, reshaping school district policies, influencing changes to state law, evoking questions about religious expression in schools and forcing the examination of student’s First Amendment rights."