Two cases – from two states – illustrate two sets of standards that show how sadly common it’s become for schools all over the country to bully and dissolve Christian student organizations. They are also testimonies to how your support, coupled with God’s grace, enables the Alliance Defense Fund to intervene and preserve religious freedom on public school campuses.
Officials at St. Michael-Albertville High School in Hopkins, Minnesota, denied club status to ALIV (All Life Is Valuable), saying the student-led group did not “support the student body as a whole.” (The Environmental and the Anime clubs were among the more-than-a-dozen other non-curricular clubs readily approved, so apparently that standard wasn’t universally applied.)
ALIV was nixed despite a policy that requires the district to grant equal access to student clubs wishing to meet for “religious, political, or philosophical reasons during non-instructional time.” While an initial reminder of that policy – sent by ADF attorneys – failed to change the minds of the principal and district officials, the filing of a federal lawsuit brought a swift change of attitude, and the club has now been granted official status.
“Pro-life students should not be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs,” says ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “School officials did the right thing by finally granting the ALIV Club official status and no longer assuming the authority to trump the constitutionally protected rights of students. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
Hopkins attorney Charles Shreffler, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, and in light of the district’s decision to recognize the club, ADF has filed a voluntary dismissal of the suit.
Meanwhile, ADF attorneys have secured a similar settlement with Half Hollow Hills Central School District in Central Islip, N.Y., where officials have now reinstated a Christian “Icthus Club” they summarily disposed of at the beginning of the 2009 school year – without any advance notice to the club’s members.
More than 90 students signed a petition in favor of allowing the student-led club to continue meeting, but school officials, claiming unspecified “budget cuts” (which didn’t affect 60 other clubs, including the Gay-Straight Alliance) and a lack of student popularity (although an average of 55 students attended the previous year’s meetings) ignored their request.
They did not, however, ignore the federal lawsuit ADF filed on behalf of the club’s leaders, and have now not only reinstated the club, but changed district policy, and revoked the previous unconstitutional guidelines for club formation and official recognition.
“Christian student groups in public schools shouldn’t be discriminated against,” Cortman says. “District officials did the right thing. Singling out and shutting down a religious student club while letting the vast majority of the others remain is unconstitutional.”
Allied attorney Robert W. Dapelois is serving as local counsel in the case.
Please be in continuing prayer for these, and so many similar cases, around the country, and for the faithful young people standing firm for the truth of Christ in the face of this legal persecution.
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