Michael Leal, a senior at Cascade High School in Everett, Washington has been suspended three times since September for refusing to stop loudly preaching to classmates in school. Now he has filed a lawsuit claiming that attempts to silence him amounts to persecution for his religious beliefs.
School officials say that Leal was informed of the school district’s policy which forbids creating a disruption and told that he must comply with it. Leal continued his disruptive behavior by handing out religious tracts and preaching loudly, at least once employing an amplifier claiming that it was his First Amendment right.
“There’s people that talk about many other things — football, basketball, baseball — but when I start talking about the Bible, start talking about Jesus, then people get riled up,” Leal told a reporter.
An attorney for the school district, Michael Patterson disagreed with Leal’s claims that he was being silenced because of the things that he was saying:
“At no time was Mr. Leal told that his distribution of material or his statements were inappropriate at school because of their religious content. Rather, he was informed of District policy … and told that he needed to comply with it. He was also informed that he could not create a substantial disruption at school or school events.”
The district said that the administration stepped in and asked him to change his behavior after receiving complaints from other students who Leal was annoying as he constantly told them that they were sinners and going to hell.
Leal’s attorneys say that he was told that he had to stop talking about Jesus and handing out pamphlets because it was illegal, and that the district involved the police unnecessarily when he appeared at an after school event and began to preach using an amplification device, refusing to stop when asked to.
The school attempted to accommodate Leal, telling him that if he wished to he could form a school club, but that they could not allow him to continue to annoy students who did not want to hear his message and that he could not continue to disrupt school events.
Leal responded by showing up at a school open house and volleyball game on October 8 where he once again began to preach and distribute his literature. He was again suspended and warned that if he continued to ignore instructions to stop his disruptive behavior, he would be expelled.
Leal’s attorneys supplied by a religious organization, Pacific Justice Institute says that by not allowing him to preach and hand out pamphlets at school, the district is interfering with his right to practice his faith.
Watch a news report from KOMO in the video below.