High Court: religious clubs can meet in public schools

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High Court: religious clubs can meet in public schools
06/11/01 at 17:13:31
Assalamu alaykum

this is an interesting development for those involved in youth work,
studying law, or just want to know more about the separation of church and



High Court: religious clubs can meet in public schools
June 11, 2001 Posted: 11:52 a.m. EDT (1552 GMT)

Photo: The Good News Club is led by Rev. Stephen Fournier

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled for a Christian youth group Monday in
a church-state battle over whether religious groups must be allowed to meet
in public schools after class hours.

In a 6-3 decision that lowered the figurative wall of separation between
church and state, the justices said a New York public school district must
let the Good News Club hold after-school meetings for grade-school children
to pray and study the Bible.

Justice Stephen Breyer, usually a moderate-to-liberal vote on the court,
joined the five most conservative members in partial support of the
religious club's request. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
and David Souter dissented.

The majority found that excluding the club was unconstitutional
discrimination based on the club's views. Letting the meeting take place
would not be an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, the
court ruled.

The Constitution's First Amendment protects free speech and the free
exercise of religion, but it also bars government establishment of religion.

The Milford School District in upstate New York had argued that allowing the
Good News Club to hold what school officials called "the equivalent of
religious worship" at the school would amount to a school endorsement of
Christianity over other religions.

The Good News Club said the school was discriminating against it based on
its views.

The youth group's members range from age 5 to 12, and its meetings include
Bible stories, prayers and teaching children to "give God first place in
your life." The club has met at a local church since the school denied its
1996 request to use the school building after 3 p.m. on school days.

The Supreme Court has long wrangled with the question of religion in the
public schools. The justices banned organized prayer during class hours in
the early 1960s, and in the past decade banned clergy-led prayer at high
school graduation ceremonies and student-led prayer at high school football

But the court also ruled in 1993 that a New York public school must let a
religious group use its building to show Christian movies during evening

In cases involving the use of public money for church-run schools, the
justices allowed taxpayer-funded computers and remedial help by public
school teachers at religious schools.

The Milford school has had a policy since 1992 allowing community use of its
building after class hours for "social, civic and recreational meetings" and
other uses for the community's welfare. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H
Club are among the groups that have met at the school.

The school district's lawyers contended that because the Good News Club's
members were grade-school age and the meetings would be held immediately
after school, some children might be confused into believing the school
district endorsed the club's religious message.

The Good News Club contended the school was discriminating against it while
allowing other groups such as the Boy Scouts to teach moral values at the
school building. A federal judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
upheld the school district's policy.

Monday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision and sent the case back to
the lower court.

By letting other groups use the school after hours, school officials created
a public forum, the court found.

"When Milford denied the Good News Club access to the school's limited
public forum on the ground that the club was religious in nature, it
discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in
violation of the free-speech clause of the First Amendment," Justice
Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority

The case is The Good News Club v. Milford Central Schools, 99-2036.
Re: High Court: religious clubs can meet in public schools
06/11/01 at 18:25:47

wa alaykum as salaam wa rahmatAllah,

wow that's awesome..

it's not (or shouldn't be) a problem for students to form a religious club in a public middle school or high school, because the Equal Access Act guarantees equal access to school facilities to religious and non-religious clubs..

but what this ruling means is that religious *organizations* can use school facilities after hours for religious activities.. so a masjid-sponsored after school program or a masjid-sponsored big brother/big sister program is legally allowed to use public school facilities..

now all we need are motivated ppl in communities to work on such programs... :)

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