Thursday, April 14, 2011

Should religion be expressed at school?

Student speech falls in the middle of the First Amendment spectrum for students that attend public schools. Students are offered an opportunity to express their talents and weakness by joining after school activities programs. The Equal Access Act is designed to ensure that, consistent with the First Amendment, student religious activities are accorded the same access to public school facilities as are student secular activities. In the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001) the Good News Club said that Milford Central School violated their First Amendment rights by not allowing the Good News Club hold weekly Christian meeting after school. GOOD NEWS CLUB v. MILFORD CENTRAL SCHOOL was argued in February 2001 and decided in June 2001. Before going to the United States Supreme Court, the case was on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. What is a Good News Club? It is a private Christian organization for children between the ages of 5 and 12. The club meets for one hour, one day a week and local Christians want to evangelize boys and girls with the gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple them with the Word of God. A school district in New York enacted a policy that opened the district’s school building to public use to purposes including the (1) instruction in any branch of education, learning, or the art, (2) social, civic, and recreational meetings; and (3) other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community. On the other hand the policy provided that school premises were not to be used by any individual or organization for religious purposes. Sponsors of the Good News Club requested permission for the club to hold weekly after school meetings and having “a fun time of singing songs, hearing a Bible lesson and memorizing scripture.”An official from the district denied the request although they allowed other community organizations to use the space. The club sued the school on free- speech grounds, claiming the school discriminated against it based on its views. This case has two questions. First question is whether Milford Central School violated the free speech rights of the Good News Club when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school. The second question is would violate the Establishment Clause. The Courts decided that Milford’s restriction violates the Club’s free speech rights and that no Establishment Clause concern justifies that violation. The U.S Supreme Court ruled on June 11, 2001 that Milford Central must make its facilities available for religious organizations in addition to other community group and Justice Clarence Thomas made the 6-3 decision. According to after the ruling of Good News Club v. Milford Central School many recent legal cases involving Bible clubs and other religious meetings at public schools have been reported. A recent case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 561 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 2971, 177 L.Ed.2d 838 (2010) is about upholding the right of a state university to withhold funding and official recognition from a student group that denied membership or leadership positions to students based on religion and sexual orientation. Before this case went to the United States Supreme Court, the case was on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. The Christian Legal Society filed a lawsuit in the beginning of the 2004-2005 academic school year, against school officials who denied recognition to the group chapter because the chapter requires its officers and voting members to adhere to the CLS “Statement of Faith”. A statement of faith is a statement of the core beliefs of a religious group. CLS filed this suit for injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging that Hastings’ refusal to grant the group Registered Student Organization (RSO) status violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion. On June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University Of California; Hastings College Of The Law. Both cases deal with an issue that will continue over decade over decade and students will continue to have the right to express the feelings in a public school environment. Sources: Chapter 9: Statement of Faith:

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