Schenectady school denies recognition to student Christian club
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Schenectady High School's refusal to grant official recognition to a Christian club that a group of students is seeking to organize on campus has generated a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund informing school officials that they are in violation of the students' First Amendment and equal access rights.
"Christian students on campus should not be treated as second-class citizens," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeff Shafer. "The Supreme Court has affirmed in no uncertain terms the right of religious clubs to meet on public school campuses to the same extent as other kinds of clubs. The requirement of equal access means just that--equal. School officials do not have the prerogative to open up their facilities to any and every extra-curricular group and at the same time deny access to a Christian student group."
Since 2003, a group of students at Schenectady High School have been seeking official recognition of the Schenectady High School Christian Alliance, but school officials so far have refused to grant recognition to the club. A student contacted ADF for help, and soon thereafter Shafer sent a letter to school officials advising them to honor the student's constitutional rights in order to avoid unnecessary legal action. To date, the school district has not responded.
"Public officials are constitutionally forbidden to enforce policies hostile to the First Amendment rights of students," said Shafer. "The refusal of school officials to grant recognition to this student club is without excuse."
Other groups on campus that enjoy recognized club status include Spectrum Gay/Straight Alliance, Amnesty International, and SOS (Save Our Sphere), an environmental club. Official recognition by the school carries with it the access to certain privileges and facilities, such as use of the public address system, bulletin boards, and classroom space.
ADF is a legal alliance defending America's first liberty--religious freedom--through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.