California School District Denies Equal Access to Christian Club

California School District Denies Equal Access to Christian Club

A school district in California has been accused of wrongfully prohibiting a Christian student club from meeting at a local elementary school.

According to Liberty Counsel, Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) rejected three separate requests from Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) to let one of its Good News Club chapters meet at Fairview Elementary School.

A Good News Club had been meeting at Fairview Elementary for a number of years until COVID forced the cancellation of all clubs in the spring of 2020, Liberty Counsel said. Once clubs were allowed to return to district schools, CEF asked three separate times for the Good News Club to be allowed back on campus at Fairview, but the school district did not respond. 

Other clubs, including Girl Scouts and Girls on the Run, have been allowed to resume meeting on campus after school. 

On Aug. 21, Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the school district detailing the facts, policies and laws that prohibit the district from denying CEF’s use of school facilities. The letter demanded that the school district “immediately approve CEF’s renewed facilities use request to hold a Good News Club after school on campus at Fairview Elementary School.”

Liberty warned the school district to respond by Aug. 31 to avoid further legal action. As of Sept. 6, the district had not responded. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement that it is unlawful for the school district to deny the club’s meeting request.

“According to the law, Good News Clubs must be given equal access as the non-religious groups on public school campuses,” stated Staver.  

“Equal access means equal treatment including the use of on-campus facilities, fee waivers, time of meetings, and announcements. Liberty Counsel will work to ensure this happens.”

A Hayward Unified School District spokesperson told The Christian Post that officials “are investigating this matter and have no comment at this time.”

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Good News Club v. Milford Central School that public schools cannot ban Good News Clubs from meeting on school property after class hours solely because the club is Christian in nature.  

Since that time, however, there have been occasional efforts to prohibit the Christian student group from meeting on public school property outside of class hours.

In March, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against Providence Public School District in Rhode Island after officials there blocked Good News Clubs from meeting at schools for about two years. A federal district court ruled the school district discriminated against CEF by not allowing the Good News Clubs while allowing other clubs to meet. As a result of the victory, the Providence Public School District is permanently mandated to treat the Good News Clubs “on an equal basis with similarly situated organizations, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Girls on the Run.” The court declared that Christian clubs are entitled to equal access “on the same terms” as other after-school clubs. 

Providence PSD agreed to a consent order in July that allowed the Christian student club “access to District facilities that is equal to and on the same terms as other similarly situated nonreligious organizations offering programs to students in the District.” 

Good News Clubs do not charge any fee and welcome children, regardless of religious belief, with written permission from parents. There are currently 3,285 Good News Clubs, with approximately 2,000 of them meeting after school in public elementary and middle schools across the United States.

Adrian Sherratt/Alamy Stock Photo

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