Public School District Must Allow Religious Group Free Access, Court Says
September 18, 2008 - 2:30 PMA federal court Thursday ruled in favor of a religious group that had to pay to hold Good News Clubs at public schools in Williamsburg, Va., while the district allowed groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to use the facilities for free.
The Child Evangelism Fellowship of Virginia (CEF) was unconstitutionally discriminated against by the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, the court ruled.
The school district was ordered to rewrite its policy and pay over $20,000 in damages.
Good News Clubs teach children respect, good citizenship, moral values and character development from a biblical perspective.
“Parents and children will benefit now that Good News Clubs will have equal access to the school district's facilities. Good News Clubs are good news for kids. Every public school ought to have a Good News Club. The kids love them, parents appreciate them, and the First Amendment protects them,” Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, said in a statement.
The Liberty Counsel filed the lawsuit on behalf of CEF.
“Of all places, Good News Clubs should have been welcome in Williamsburg and James City, the birthplaces of American liberty. Now they are welcome. We told school officials their policy was unconstitutional. They didn't listen, so we filed suit and they learned the hard way that the First Amendment forbids religious discrimination," he added.