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Ban on church fliers sparks lawsuit

Atonement Lutheran Church, San Diego, has felt the effects of violence in schools. Now the church and its pastor, James Jerpseth, are experiencing a conflict over religion in schools.

In March nearby Santana High School — attended by four parishioners — was rocked by a student-instigated shooting. In response, Atonement, along with a Christian counseling service, refocused a series of parenting seminars around violence prevention. But Jerpseth's requests to advertise the seminars on school bulletin boards were denied. The reason? Unlike fliers for other community events, Atonement's fliers listed the church as the meeting place and contained religious language.

On Oct. 8, several months after the seminars, the American Center for Law and Justice filed suit against the San Diego School District on behalf of Atonement and Jerpseth. The suit alleges that the district violated freedom of expression and religious practice. Jerpseth isn't allowed to discuss the case, which has been taken by the Pat Robertson-founded law firm free of charge.

In the meantime, Atonement has begun a second "Stopping the Violence" series. Although "the inability to publicize at schools hurt us," Jerpseth says, "the real impact" has been the program's effect on individual families.


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