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School flips policy banning flyers for Bible study

A school district in Leavenworth, Washington, has decided to change a policy that banned giving flyers to students if they were about the Good News Clubs after the Christian organization approached school officials armed with a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that affirms the practice.

The 2001 Good News Clubs Supreme Court case has been cited in hundreds of other legal fights over students’ religious rights at public schools as the precedent for schools in the U.S.

The case was brought by Child Evangelism Fellowship, which runs Good News Clubs, against the Milford Central School District.

It went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices ruled that school districts must provide the same access to school facilities and procedures to Good News Clubs as is given to any other non-school-related outside group.

That includes groups such as the Boy Scouts.

The latest case, profiled by Liberty Counsel, was against the Cascade School District in Leavenworth.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

The district had been preventing distribution of the Good News Clubs flyers to children because of a parent’s claim that the school was promoting Christianity by allowing the flyers.

Other organizations, however, still were allowed to promote their events.

According to Liberty Counsel, the parent who complained said the Good News Club flyers were “using the public school system to promote religion.”

The parent made the complaint even though the flyers had a clear disclaimer stating the club is privately sponsored and not funded by the district.

That single complaint prompted the Cascade district to ban the flyers as a violation of its Policy 2340f, which states, “Material and/or announcements promoting religion may not be distributed by non-students or on behalf of groups or individuals who are not students.”

However, the district continued to allow distributions by Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, YMCA and the like.

Liberty Counsel reminded Supt. Bill Motsenbocker in a letter that it already had complained about the policy.

“As you may recall, Liberty Counsel corresponded with the Cascade School District … in 2015 regarding Child Evangelism Fellowship (‘CEF’) Good News Club (‘GNC’) flyers, and the district’s reliance upon the outdated and unconstitutional Board Procedure … as the basis for its denial of distribution permission,” Liberty Counsel told the district.

“After Liberty Counsel brought this to the district’s attention, your office permitted the flyers for distribution, notwithstanding BP 2340. Liberty Counsel had also requested that BP 4030P be changed to remove the unconstitutional language found in Section F of that procedure to avoid future instances like the current one, but this was not done.”

The letter to Motsenbocker continued: “A rule of denying flyers deemed to be ‘proselytizing or disparaging religious beliefs,’ or flyers deemed to be ‘material and/or announcements promoting religion’ is a de facto ‘secular materials only’ rule, which the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have rejected, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Washington.”

The letter noted the district had had more than a year to correct its practice.

Liberty Counsel said after its letter was received by the district, school officials acted to reverse the previous unconstitutional directive and moved to eliminate the unconstitutional policy.

“The Cascade School District made the appropriate decision to eliminate the unconstitutional policy and recognize that the Good News Club has equal access to students,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.

“Public schools cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints and allow other organizations to promote their materials. We are elated with this victory for Child Evangelism Fellowship, for equal access and for our Constitution.”

CEF has been working for more than 70 years to encourage Bible instruction and Christian service in every state and more than 180 nations. There are more than 43,000 clubs worldwide,

It was just one of two current cases involving Good News Clubs, Liberty Counsel said.

In the second case, in which the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was restricting access by charging fees that were charged to no other outside groups, a court ruled the district will pay $150,000 damages and allow the restoration of the clubs in schools, Liberty Counsel said.

“Public schools must learn they cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints,” Staver added. “Besides, it’s a win-win situation for the students and the schools. Studies show that 85 percent of all people who accept Christ do so before the age of 18. Child Evangelism Fellowship gives children a spiritual education, and more than 87 percent of school administrators say the Good News Clubs are a positive experience for their school.”

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”