Iowa School District Assents to Christian Clubs Demands for Equal Access
TAMA, IA – A public school district in Iowa decided to allow a Christian club to use school facilities after receiving a demand letter from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, America’s largest religious freedom public interest legal alliance.
The Community School District of South Tama County, Iowa, now says that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club at South Tama High School will be treated like all the other student organizations.
"The District must level the playing field," said Peter Gentala, an attorney with ADF. "The courts have firmly established the right of student religious clubs to have full and equal access to school property consistent with the First Amendment. The crucial factor that triggers the Equal Access Act is whether a school district allows other non-curriculum clubs to use school facilities." The school had already granted other clubs access to its facilities.
In its guidelines published in 2003, the U.S. Department of Education states that students may organize groups for religious purposes "before school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize non-curricular groups, without discrimination because of the religious content of their expression" and that, "where student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce their meetings—school authorities may not discriminate against groups who meet to pray."
After praying about the denial of her initial request, Jordon Lyman, a senior at the school, decided to challenge her school so that more of her peers could know about the Christian club. Jordon says she is "excited that the opportunity now exists for kids to get involved in a Christian club." She says that these new provisions make it "easier for the group to grow because the homeroom period gives time for FCA meetings when students have free time."