Court Asserts Equal Access for Good News Clubs in Hawaii

Court Asserts Equal Access for Good News Clubs in Hawaii

An after-school ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has won a temporary victory in federal court in Hawaii.

The U.S. District Court for Hawaii on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction to CEF after public school officials there blocked and delayed CEF’s requests to offer Good News Clubs on school property.

Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit law firm that represented CEF, calls the ruling a “victory for equal access” against the Hawaii State Department of Education.

CEF has a long history of running successful Good News Clubs around the state. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, officials and superintendents representing six elementary schools have denied or delayed CEF’s requests for facility use, while granting those of nonreligious groups. Some school officials blatantly said they denied CEF’s requests because Good News Clubs are religious in nature.

CEF appealed the denials to the state Department of Education, but reportedly did not receive a response.

The preliminary injunction requires that the Department of Education give equal access to CEF’s Good News Clubs to spaces, benefits, time periods and fees that are made available to other nonprofits. Additionally, it establishes time frames preventing schools from arbitrarily delaying responses to CEF’s applications; and, if a school official denies CEF’s application, he or she must provide CEF with a written denial outlining specific reasons why the request was denied, “with sufficient particularity to allow scrutiny of whether those reasons are valid.”

Notably, in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot ban Good News Clubs from meeting on their property after school hours due to the clubs’ religious affiliation.

“This is a great victory for Child Evangelism Fellowship, parents, and the students in Hawaii public schools,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public schools cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints regarding use of school facilities. Child Evangelism Fellowship gives children a safe space that offers moral and character development from a Christian viewpoint. Good News Clubs should be in every public elementary school.”

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