Challenge to School District’s Denial of Status to Christian Club

A high school in New York State is being threatened with a federal lawsuit over its refusal to grant official recognition to a Christian student organization on its campus.

Schenectady High School has denied official status to the Christian Alliance since 2003. But after a member of the club contacted the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), that legal defense group sent a letter warning school officials that if it did not start honoring the student's constitutional rights, legal action would ensue.

ADF attorney Elizabeth Murray says Schenectady High School has no basis to continue in its unconstitutional behavior. She asserts, “The Equal Access Act and other constitutional principles prohibit school districts from engaging in viewpoint discrimination and denying equal access to a student group based on its religious beliefs.”

Ordinarily the Schenectady City School District (SCSD) allows groups that are recognized to have access to classroom space for meetings, to use the PA system, and to post announcements, Murray points out. Yet, she notes, “These are unavailable to the Christian Club unless they're recognized as a student group.” Meanwhile, ADF has learned, other groups on campus enjoying recognized club status include Spectrum Gay/Straight Alliance, Amnesty International, and an environmental club called SOS (Save Our Sphere).

The ADF attorney says the Schenectady City School District (SCSD) is engaging in unfair and unlawful viewpoint discrimination against the Christian Alliance and has yet to offer an explanation for its refusal to recognize the faith-based student organization. “The school district is implementing a double standard and treating Christian student groups as second class clubs,” she insists.

The information letter sent to the SCSD on behalf of the Christian Alliance informed the school officials that they are in violation of the students' First Amendment and equal access rights. According to Jeff Shafer, ADF's Senior Legal Counsel, the US Supreme Court has unequivocally affirmed the right of religious clubs to meet on public school campuses to the same extent as other kinds of clubs.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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