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Solid victory in NY’s Half Hollow Hills: ADF wins recognition for Christian student club

Club had been shut down while 60 others remained

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have secured a settlement with Half Hollow Hills Central School District after filing suit in February 2010 on behalf of the student leader of a Christian club, which school officials cancelled without her knowledge. ADF attorneys voluntarily dismissed the suit after school officials agreed to reinstate the club, change district policy, and revoke unconstitutional guidelines for club formation and official recognition.

Public school officials claimed that unspecified budget cuts and a lack of student popularity spurred their decision to cancel the club, even though the club had more than 55 student attendees in 2009 and approximately 60 other student clubs, including the Gay-Straight Alliance and Amnesty International, were allowed to continue.

“Christian student groups in public schools shouldn’t be discriminated against,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “District officials did the right thing by reinstating the Ichthus Club and adjusting their policies. Singling out and shutting down a religious student club while letting the vast majority of the others remain is unconstitutional.”

At the beginning of her freshman 2009-2010 school year at Half Hollow Hills High School East, the student co-leader of the Ichthus Club was told that her extracurricular student group had been cancelled. She was given no advance notification. Following the decision, more than 90 students signed a petition in favor of allowing the club to continue meeting, but school officials still did not immediately reinstate the club.

Because the school district has since agreed to recognize the club and change their unconstitutional policies, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of J.P. v. Board of Education of Half Hollow Hills Central School Districtwith the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Tuesday. Robert W. Dapelo, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the case.

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.