We were contacted by the Director of a Child Evangelism Fellowship organization in Pennsylvania. The organization had successfully started after-school Good News Club programs at various public schools in the area, but the Principal of one elementary school denied their request. Various curriculum-related and non-curriculum related activities and group meetings occurred at the school after hours, including Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts meetings.
We spoke with the Director about the situation and sent him a personalized letter explaining that the First Amendment requires public elementary and secondary schools to treat religious student groups the same as non-religious student groups. The ACLJ has represented and assisted numerous groups dealing with similar situations over the past quarter century, including in cases that were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. These include Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993), in which the Court held that denying a church access to public school premises after school hours to show a film series on parenting violated the First Amendment, and Board of Education v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990), in which the Court held that allowing a student Bible club to meet on a public school’s campus did not violate the Establishment Clause.
We recently received an email back from the Director of the Child Evangelism Fellowship group that said:
I heard today – our flyers have been approved for distribution. . . . [T]he letter was extremely helpful! It made the difference in our gaining access to hold the After School Good News Club . . . . The day after I emailed the letter to them, the principal and elementary superintendent agreed to meet with us, whereas before they were refusing to even meet to talk. It was a very positive meeting and has been positive in all our correspondence since. Thank you for your efforts on our behalf. Again, I appreciate your assistance and support.
We are pleased with this outcome and will continue to help religious groups obtain equal access to public facilities across the country.