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July 11, 2005

A partial victory for Christian school groups in California

From the Christian Post:

The [Chico Unified School District in Northern California] charges higher facilities usage fees to religious groups than to secular groups. When [Child Evangelism Fellowship] requested to use rooms after school hours for youth gatherings [for their Good News Club], the District advised the elementary school to charge fees that other youth groups – such as the boys and girl’s scouts – are exempted from. Although the CEF briefly paid the fees, the higher costs eventually forced the Good News Club to stop meeting.

In April 2005, the Liberty Counsel filed suit in a federal district court in Sacramento challenging the constitutionality of the District policy.

Last month, the District responded to the lawsuit by repealing a procedural policy that placed the Good News Club under the religious groups category, and refunded fee payments to the CEF.

Mary Leary, the district’s Director of maintenance operations and transportation, said higher fees-policy still applies to religious groups. However, she said the district recognized the Club was not holding a religious service.

While it's good that they are no longer discriminating against this group, there are still some serious problems here. It is still unconstitutional for them to be discriminating against religious groups — pretending one religious group isn't a religious group, doesn't negate that.

What is also disturbing is that Liberty Council accepted this false compromise...

...Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, said he is “pleased.”

“It is unfortunate that takes a federal lawsuit to get the attention of school officials,” said Staver. “Good News Clubs have a proven track record of providing an inspirational and positive environment for elementary students. Every elementary school in American ought to have a Good News Club.”

But their “victory” came only at the expense of the school pretending the group is not religious. It still leaves the door wide open for them to discriminate against other groups.

Posted by Danny Carlton at July 11, 2005 07:36 AM

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