During his freshman year in high school, Nathan Solak and a group of friends started Oasis Christian Club at John Hersey High School located in northwest Chicago. With a desire to give Christians the opportunity to pray and discuss their faith, the club began meeting regularly before school, but there was one problem.
“Our school said that since we were a religious club, we couldn’t be recognized as an official club,” says Nathan, now in his senior year. “We could use space and we could meet” but we couldn’t “make announcements” or “put up posters and fliers” like “all the other clubs.”
One night, while participating in his church youth group, Nathan listened to a group called the California School Project discuss holding outreach weeks at local high schools in Chicago. Inspired by this idea, Nathan and the Oasis Christian Club began planning an outreach week to help the California School Project in its Chicago Opportunity initiative. With many of the details in place, the club made a request at the end of December to use the school’s theatre for the event because they were expecting a large turnout.
“[The school] didn’t get back to us until very, very late in January,” Nathan says. “They told us no and they didn’t really give us much reasoning behind it.”
Wanting answers, Nathan and the club pressured the school and were told that they couldn’t hold a religious event on campus. Feeling frustrated, Nathan began to explore his legal rights. Through the recommendation of a friend, he contacted Alliance Defending Freedom and got in touch with Litigation Staff Counsel, Rory Gray.
“Rory started working through it immediately. It was really, really awesome to have him on the case right from the get-go,” shares Nathan.
Rory sent a letter to the school informing them that they needed to officially recognize Oasis Christian Club and allow them to hold the event as planned, including the use of the theatre. Within an hour or so, the Student Activities Coordinator visited Nathan to get the room request form. It was during his sixth hour class when Nathan was told the event was approved. The school was very apologetic and simply didn’t understand the rights of its students.
So how did the event turn out? Initially expecting 75 to 80 students, the number of attendees was approximately 350. Nathan had friends attend who he never expected to see there and was able to connect with students who didn’t even know Oasis Christian Club existed.
As for the future, Nathan Solak plans to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies with the hope of one day becoming a pastor.
And for any students who may face a similar situation, Nathan provides some sound advice, “Persevering, knowing your rights, staying bold, and I think even more importantly … is just having a strong faith … because the only way I got through all of [this] was by God’s grace and through prayer ….”