A New York school district faces a lawsuit for encouraging students to explore homosexuality while trying to prevent them from studying the Bible.
The suit alleges the district allows and encourages homosexuality by providing special services to organizations including the Gay-Straight Alliance, Key Club, Chess Club, Fishing Club and Ski Club. It contends the district illegally has discriminated against students seeking a Bible Club, instead forcing them to apply for permission to use school facilities as an outside group.
“Christian student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “The First Amendment and federal law both prohibit such actions on the basis of religion, and this has been established by years of court precedent.”
The public interest law firm said for more than four months, Lindenhurst High School officials repeatedly have refused to grant official recognition to the club because of its religious nature, despite the presence of other non-curriculum-related student clubs that are given benefits and privileges.
In fact, the lawsuit said, the district refuses to permit members of the Bible Club to use classrooms to meet on the same basis as other clubs. Instead, the students were forced to apply for access permission “as a local community organization.”
Joshua Bolinger, litigation counsel for the ADF, said the Bible Club should be given the same recognition and benefits as other student-led clubs.
Attorney Charles E. Holster III of Mineola is serving as local counsel in the case.
“Defendants have denied a fair opportunity, have discriminated against, and have denied Plaintiff equal access to all school facilities, benefits, and privileges, because of the religious content of the speech and association at Bible Club meetings,” the complaint states.
“Defendants’ conduct cannot be justified by a compelling governmental interest, nor is it narrowly tailored to advance any such interest.”
The case claims Supt. Neil Lederer “grants official clubs status to non-curriculum related student clubs” including those addressing “issues involving, among others, promoting respect and dignity for students at LHS; premarital sex, including homosexual behavior; community service; and leadership.”
The district allows students in those groups to hold meetings during non-instructional time, be listed in the yearbook, participate in student club fairs, have access to an adviser, take club field trips, use the public address system and bulletin boards for announcements and participate in fund-raising activities and district funding for student clubs, according to the lawsuit.
However, “Defendants have denied, and continue to deny, Plaintiff the right to official recognition of the Bible Club at LHS, as well as all of the attendant rights, privileges and benefits equal to all other non-curriculum related clubs.”
The lawsuit alleges violation of free speech and equal access requirements as well as viewpoint discrimination.
The school referred WND’s request for comment to a public relations firm, which claimed the district is willing to provide “this group” with space to meet, but it “has not filed the proper application.”
On the same day the new New York case was announced, Liberty Counsel, another prominent public interest law firm dealing with constitutional rights, announced a settlement of a similar case on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship against Cobb County School District in Georgia.
The district had a discriminatory policy that denied equal
access to religious groups, and Liberty Counsel filed a case in January, requesting an immediate court hearing.
“As the hearing was soon approaching, the district agreed to settle the
case and entered into a Consent Decree which the federal court
approved on February 4th,” Liberty Counsel said. “Under the settlement, the district will
repay CEF the overcharged fees it collected for use of the facilities,
pay attorney’s fees and costs, and grant CEF equal access to
district facilities, in terms of free use and time of use, as is
granted to similar organizations.”
“We are pleased that the school district responded quickly after the lawsuit was filed to settle this case,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder of LC and dean of Liberty University School of Law. “Equal access is the law, and equal access means
equal treatment in every respect. Equal access applies to use of the
facilities, fees for use, the time of meetings and advertisements for
the meetings. Good News Clubs are great for children. The children and
the parents are the real winners in this settlement.”