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Memorial's remonstrance

National | Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal on case concerning Columbine High School's memorial

Issue: "State of the Union 2003," Jan. 25, 2003

Brian Rohrbough wanted to honor his son Danny, who was killed in the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre. So he submitted two 4-inch tiles as part of a planned memorial. School officials refused them because they bore Christian messages.

A drawn-out court battle resulted. It ended at the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court, which last week refused to hear his appeal of a ruling that sided with Jefferson County Public Schools.

The two tiles were meant to join 4,000 others along the school's corridors above lockers in hallways. They bear crosses that are only about an inch high. The school claimed it had the right to reject them. It said 80 submissions were turned away, including tiles depicting anarchist symbols, guns, and blood.

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The Rutherford Institute filed a lawsuit against the district in 1999 on behalf of Mr. Rohrbough and several others, claiming that the district's decision violated their freedom of speech and freedom of religion. U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel ruled against the school in 2001.

The school district appealed and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the order. It argued that the school must control speech in this case or it would have to display tiles with inappropriate messages.

Mr. Rohrbough said the high court justices, in refusing to hear his appeal of that decision, are condoning censorship. "If you asked me to create a memory of my son, it is always going to include a reference to God because it is a core value," he said.

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