Christian Group Sues School District for Discrimination

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

A Georgia school district is being sued by a Christian student’s fellowship club for demanding that it pay a fee to use the school premises for meetings even though no other club is made to do so.

“Equal access is the law, and equal access means equal treatment in every respect,” said Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel, a public interest law firm representing the club.

The Cobb County School District is being charged with having a discriminatory policy against religious groups for charging only the Christian club with a fee, and also for limiting the time the group can meet on school property.

According to Liberty Council, since December, 2007, the Cobb County School District has refused to grant a group known as the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) the same access to school premises that it provides to Boy Scouts and similar organizations. The District policy allows free access for many types of secular community organizations including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, PTA, Booster Clubs, advisory organizations, and many others. These secular groups are permitted access immediately after school. However, the CEF is not permitted to meet until after 5:45 pm, which means that attendance is minimal because of the inconvenient time. As a result, CEF’s Good News Club had to cease meeting on school campuses despite the fact that many parents wanted the club to continue for their children.

“Equal access applies to use of the facilities, usage fees, times of meetings and advertisements of the meetings,” Staver said.

“The First Amendment prohibits all forms of viewpoint discrimination, whether such discrimination be overt or subtle. Good News Clubs are one of the most positive influences that public schools can offer to parents and their children. It is absurd that anyone would want to reject an organization that promotes patriotism, civic responsibility, and character development. These are qualities that young children need to learn about and develop. Instead of restricting Good News Clubs, public schools ought to embrace them.”

The suit is requesting an immediate court hearing on the basis that the District policy is unconstitutional and is causing irreparable harm in violation of the First Amendment.

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