Viewpoint Neutrality for Me, But Not for Thee

Earlier this month, we wrote about a controversy regarding the Albemarle County School Board in Virginia and its “backpack mail” program. As we explained then, the Jerry Falwell-affiliated Liberty Counsel had sent a letter to the school board, citing an earlier 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down a Montgomery County (MD) “backpack mail” policy after it refused to distribute fliers for Child Evangelism Fellowship’s “Good News Clubs.” 

The Liberty Counsel warned the Albemarle board that its refusal to distribute fliers about a church-sponsored vacation bible school via its own “backpack mail” program was unconstitutional and the board quickly changed its policy.  

The Right was quite pleased with itself – at least until fliers for a summer camp for atheists and freethinkers started showing up in students’ backpacks.  

With that, Vision America swung into action, saying it was “outrageous to force teachers to distribute these flyers” and apparently its activists so overwhelmed the Albemarle County School Board that the board has decided to do away with the backpack mail program entirely:

This fall, the load of papers coming home with Albemarle County kids in backpack mail will be lighter: no Boy Scouts recruitments, no YMCA sign-ups, no mention of vacation Bible school. And no fliers touting atheist camp.

Superintendent Pam Moran told the School Board her email inbox shut down when a national organization– Vision America headquartered in Lufkin, Texas– got wind of the “beyond belief” Camp Quest fliers and flooded her with messages protesting school-abetted “atheistic indoctrination.” Technicians had to work over the weekend to get her email back up and running.

So to recap: Liberty Counsel eagerly embraced “viewpoint neutrality” in order to get evangelical Christian materials into the schools’ “backpack mail” program, but once that neutrality extended to include atheists, Vision America stepped in and shut the program down all together.