Thursday, January 04, 2007

Good News Clubs Return to Connecticut Schools

Good News Clubs Return to Connecticut Schools
Wolcott, CT – The Wolcott School District has now reversed its discriminatory practice of denying equal access to Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Good News Clubs in its elementary schools. Following intervention by Liberty Counsel, CEF of Connecticut will now be permitted to use the District facilities on the same basis as other similarly situated secular groups.
In the past, CEF has held Good News Club meetings at Wolcott elementary schools and has been charged only the minimal charges applicable to local nonprofit or “Group I” organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and similar groups. When CEF applied for facilities use for the 2006-2007 school year, District officials insisted that CEF must be charged as a “non-Wolcott” “Group II” organization. Under the District’s Schedule of Facilities Charges, Group I users are identified as Wolcott community organizations conducting routine nonprofit business and activities, listing organizations including the Boy and Girl Scouts. Group II users are “all other organizations and non-Wolcott organizations” and include, for example, “religious groups,” “dance studios” and “for-profit organizations.”
In December, 2006, Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter stating in part: “CEF of Connecticut is entitled to use school facilities at Wolcott schools on the same terms and conditions as are Boy Scouts and other community nonprofit groups under Group I. Based upon the legal authorities discussed in this letter, we request that the Board respond, in writing, to CEF’s request for facilities use for the upcoming school year and confirm that CEF will be entitled to use facilities as a Group I user…. Since the District’s decision is clearly unconstitutional, every day that CEF is denied access represents a continuing violation of CEF’s First Amendment rights.”
Senior Litigation Counsel Mary McAlister also spoke with the school district’s attorney after he had received a copy of the letter. CEF staff members attended a Board of Education meeting and presented their request to board members. The Board tabled CEF’s appeal. After the meeting, the superintendent asked to meet with CEF staff members. At the subsequent meeting, the superintendent agreed that CEF was a local organization entitled to access as a Group I user.
The First Amendment protects religious viewpoints from discriminatory censorship. Treating religious viewpoints almost equal to secular viewpoints is still unconstitutional. The message of the First Amendment is clear. Equal access requires equal treatment. Good News Clubs are exploding across America and that is good news for our children.