The second-largest school district in the nation has settled a year-old federal lawsuit brought by a Christian educational group that was forced to pay a fee to use school facilities when other youth-oriented organizations were not.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced yesterday it has backed down from the requirement of a $60 fee for religious-based groups only after a legal battle with Child Evangelism Fellowship, which was represented by the legal-defense group Liberty Counsel.

According to a Liberty Counsel statement, the district offered its facilities free to other groups, including the Boy Scouts and YMCA, for after-school activities. Child Evangelism Fellowship sponsors “Good News Club” meetings for elementary-age children.

Under terms of the settlement, the school district will allow the religious group equal access to facilities without charging a fee.

The settlement, says Liberty Counsel, will help the district comply with recent court decisions clarifying that school districts may not discriminate against groups because of their religious viewpoint.

“We are happy to put this litigation behind us in a way that ensures that LAUSD upholds the Constitution,” said Roy Romer, LAUSD superintendent. “Our campuses are important community assets, and the district takes seriously its obligation as stewards of those assets to ensure that they are available on an equal basis to all groups interested in providing a positive experience to young people.”

The settlement requires the district to remove from its application for facilities use a statement that previously warned against the conduct of religious activities on campuses. The lawsuit was prompted by a 2001 United States Supreme Court decision out of New York that struck down a school district’s refusal to allow a Good News Club to meet on its campus.

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