A school district in Kentucky is being accused of altering evidence to prevent a Christian childrens’ club from meeting in school facilities like other organizations.
Child Evangelism Fellowship and its sponsored Good News Clubs “are entitled to equal treatment by Boone County schools,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is defending the Christian group.
“It is amazing that schools would destroy evidence and consider canceling Girls on the Run rather than comply with the First Amendment principle of equal treatment for the Good News Clubs. We will hold Boone County School District accountable for overt viewpoint discrimination if equal treatment is not provided,” he said.
WND reported a similar case last week in Pike Township, Indiana, that was settled with the district’s agreement to change its practice and pay $85,000. School officials had been charging CEF’s club fees, even though other student clubs were allowed to meet without any payments.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 2001 case that Christian organizations can use public school facilities on the same basis as secular groups, such as the Boy Scouts.
Staver said that in the Indiana case, the district “altered evidence that proves it was illegally discriminating against the Good News Club while allowing other non-profit organizations like Girls on the Run of Cincinnati (GOTR) to use facilities space.”
“Now, administrators appear poised to cancel all 2018 Boone County Schools GOTR clubs, a local nonprofit teaching character to girls through its running program, rather than simply extend equal treatment to the Good News Club.”
Liberty Counsel in January asked the district to respond to CEF’s request for permission to use a room for meetings at Stephens and Goodridge elementaries.
“Administrators at both schools first rejected, and then ignored, the requests dating back to 2015. The discrimination against CEF continued in 2016 and 2017, all while the district permitted GOTR to meet,” Liberty Counsel said.
Liberty Counsel even provided hyperlinks to websites at both schools and additional evidence showing that GOTR is legally no different than the Good News Club.
But then “school administrators deleted an entire webpage description of GOTR at Stephens, and changed the name of ‘Girls on the Run’ to ‘Running Club’ at Goodridge, after which the district’s attorneys responded to Liberty Counsel, claiming that ‘neither running club at Stephens or Goodridge Elementary has any affiliation with the non-profit organization, Girls on the Run.'”
However, a search of the district’s website revealed “over 420 hits for the non-profit ‘Girls on the Run,’ many showing its official logo. GOTR even listed Stephens Elementary on its own website as an official club location, as well as numerous other district schools,” Liberty Counsel said.
The organization’s demand letter to the school district insists officials must preserve evidence that may be needed in the case. And Liberty Counsel renewed its demand that the Good News Clubs be given permission to meet.
Liberty Counsel contends the schools 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.
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.”