Seventeen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Christian organizations can use public school facilities on the same basis as secular groups, such as the Boy Scouts.
Apparently, word still is getting around.
Case in point is a permanent injunction against an Indiana school district allowing access for Child Evangelism Fellowship, which runs Good News Clubs for children and was the original plaintiff in the landmark 2001 high-court decision.
The ruling allows CEF to use facilities in the Indiana Metropolitan School District of Pike Township on the “same terms as other similarly situated after-school programs.”
Liberty Counsel represented the Christian organization when school officials imposed on CEF fees for building-use that no other group was forced to pay. Across the nation, school boards often claim “separation of church and state” forbids access to government schools or requires an assessment of fees.
But Liberty Counsel argues it’s the schools that are violating the Constitution’s First Amendment, which establishes a right to the free exercise of religion and says nothing about a separation of church and state. The amendment only limits the power of Congress to pass a law establishing a state religion.
“In violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the district previously required CEF to pay facilities use fees for Good News Club meetings, while waiving the fees for similarly situated, non-religious groups,” Liberty Counsel said. “For nearly two school years, the district ignored CEF’s numerous attempts to resolve the constitutional violations. This deprived Pike Township elementary students of the Good News Club’s program, which CEF offers to all interested students free of charge.”
Judge William T. Lawrence previously issued a temporary injunction against the district, and with the new ruling made it permanent.
The district also must pay a nominal sum for damages and $85,000 in legal fees.
The judge noted that after his preliminary injunction, the district changed its policies, allowing CEF access.
A year and a half ago a similar ruling was made in favor of CEF in a complaint against the policy of a school district in Ohio. A federal court required Cleveland Metro Schools to change its facility-use policies, and pay $150,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.
Cleveland’s schools were providing free after-school access to non-religious community groups, such as the Boy Scouts, but refused to treat CEF equally. Instead, the school district imposed facility fees which CEF could not pay, resulting in the shutdown of the Good News Club.
Child Evangelism Fellowship, which has been providing religious and moral education for more than 70 years, is active in every state in the U.S. and more than 183 countries.
In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled that after-school Bible clubs such as the Good News Club “must be given the same access to school facilities accorded any other non-school-related outside group.”
The ruling in Good News Club v. Milford Central School District found free speech rights had been violated because of a religious viewpoint.
A club proposed in Tacoma, Washington, attracted the interest of only one person and was shut down.
Liberty Counsel said atheists “use scare tactics to oppose the Good News Clubs, but we are neither fooled nor intimidated.”
“The so-called Satanist Temple and its after-school club had nothing good to offer students, so it was only a matter of time before it fizzled out.”
The Associated Press reported that the Satanic Temple confronted nine public school districts across the nation in just one week to start “after-school Satan programs.”
The Satanists’ own website declares: “Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented.”