ADF protects Christian club from hostile merger
Christian student club told it must unite with other faiths to receive approval
“Christian students should be encouraged to form clubs where they can develop leadership skills, discuss their faith, and provide support to their fellow students,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp. “America’s public schools should also recognize the constitutionally protected rights of religious student groups on the same basis as non-religious student groups. The principal’s actions show that he did not understand this basic principle or tolerate diversity.”
When students at Newington High School asked to start an after-school Christian club, they were told by their principal that they would only be allowed to form a “theology” club that discussed different religions. ADF attorneys sent a letter to the principal and the Newington Public Schools superintendent stating that the principal’s denial violated the students’ constitutionally protected rights and the Equal Access Act, a federal law that requires schools to provide Christian clubs with the exact same rights, benefits, and privileges that all other non-curricular student groups receive. The school had already approved other student groups with a focused area of interest.
The school district initially responded that the principal had acted appropriately. ADF attorneys then sent another letter clarifying that while students of other faiths would be welcome to attend the meetings, the principal could not force the students to alter the nature, identity, or beliefs of the Christian club. Three days later, the school district replied that the club would be approved.
“Instead of encouraging students to celebrate their differences, the principal was asking students to fit into a particular group with government-approved beliefs,” said Sharp. “That’s a frightening thing.”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.
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