A school district that had refused to recognize two Christian student clubs, depriving them of access to school facilities and resources provided to other groups, has done a 180.
Liberty Counsel on Thursday revealed that the school board of an unnamed school district in Ohio recently voted unanimously to recognize a student-led Bible study and a Christian encouragement club.
Both clubs now have been allowed to resume meetings on campus.
Liberty Counsel explained that in 2017, the students “were told they could no longer meet as ‘official school club[s]’ and would be treated as ‘outside organization[s].'”
That would mean they could not meet during noninstructional time, not distribute flyers about their meetings and be forced to pay for their meeting space.
Liberty Counsel, however, pointed out in a letter to the district that other student-led organizations were given those privileges.
They included gay-straight alliance, environmental, fashion and vegan clubs.
“We are pleased that this Ohio school district has agreed to abide by the law in granting equal access to school facilities to the Bible study and the Christian club,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver.
Liberty Counsel first wrote a letter on behalf of the students asking for accommodations and equal treatment, and the district refused.
Then a demand letter explained to the district, “If the district remains firm in treating the clubs in a manner inconsistent with the First Amendment and Equal Access Act, Liberty Counsel is prepared to vindicate the rights of these clubs and students.”
The school opposition to the clubs, which had a combined membership of about 100, came after “someone” complained the students were “violating ‘separation of church and state,'” Liberty Counsel explained.
The organization said: “In addition to meeting for encouragement and discussion, student leaders of the Christian club had hoped to demonstrate love and acceptance toward their fellow students by doing acts of kindness on various days. When they were first allowed to meet in 2017, this club met at school during noninstructional time. The students opened the meetings, and where they had a speaker, the students introduced the guest speaker. After the speaker, the students closed the meeting. No guest speaker spoke more than once. However, the Christian club was still told ‘no outside speakers’ would be allowed unless the club moved off campus for such meetings.”
The letter argued: “Equal treatment is not prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The Establishment Clause does not require the district to suppress private religious speech, even when it occurs within a school-sponsored limited public forum.
“Allowing religious student organizations equal access to the various school for a for their messages does not convert their messages into government speech nor make religious student organization’s speech subject to the requirements that government speech would be subject to under the Establishment Clause.”