Monday, April 21, 2008

Liberty Counsel Asks Court to Stop School Board’s Discrimination Against Christian Club

Today at 11:30 a.m., Liberty Counsel will appear in federal court on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Virginia (CEF) to request an injunction against the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools. The school board is engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against CEF’s after-school programs for children.

The school board charges CEF a facilities usage fee for holding its free after-school Good News Clubs, while granting free use to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other organizations the board has deemed patriotic and community service groups.

School board policy also gives the superintendent unfettered discretion to waive usage fees for "nonprofit organizations in direct support of public school students or staff." Although CEF is an organization that directly supports public school students through its Good News Clubs, the superintendent refused to grant CEF a fee waiver. By requiring the fee, the school district has imposed a discriminatory burden on CEF that prevents the Good News Clubs from expanding to all the schools in the district.

After-school Good News Clubs teach children respect, good citizenship, moral values and character development from a biblical perspective. The school board recognizes the Boy Scouts and other youth-focused groups as providing beneficial community services, but discriminates against the Good News Club by refusing to provide equal access.

The United States Supreme Court has already ruled that Good News Clubs must have the same access to school facilities as other after-school programs. A school cannot reject CEF’s use of facilities because of its identity or religious viewpoint. Liberty Counsel has obtained victories for CEF in numerous states from coast to coast and frequently litigates when school districts do not reverse unequal treatment of Good News Clubs.

Equal access is the law, and equal access means equal treatment in every respect, including equal cost. Parents should be allowed to choose whether to send their children to a Good News Club, just as they can choose Boy Scout or Girl Scout programs. It is absurd that any school official would disfavor an organization that promotes good citizenship, responsibility and character development. These are qualities that children need to develop. Of all places where public schools ought to respect the First Amendment, it ought to be in Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia, where our forefathers planted the seeds of liberty.