Liberty Counsel Sues School District for Religious Discrimination

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1383859040_CMSDLogoStacked-RGB (2)Cincinnati, OH – Liberty Counsel filed a reply brief on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) for viewpoint discrimination.

The religious, after-school club is seeking access to school facilities after the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Miles@Cranwood Elementary School Principal Chantelle Lewis insisted on charging the club a discriminatory access fee.

During the 2011/2012 school year, CEF maintained a Good News Club at Miles@Cranwood Elementary School without being assessed any facility-use fees.

However, last year, the District began charging CEF $69.50 per hour, and the club had to close. Although the school board states that every community group is required to pay the fee to use the facility, the Boy Scouts of America, another character-building youth club, is conducting after-school meetings at Miles@Cranwood Elementary School free of charge.

After Liberty Counsel filed suit, the school district told the court that the Scouts gave goods or services to the school in lieu of the fee. Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, calls the “goods and services” defense a “hasty, litigation-driven change, announced only in court filings and adopted on-the-fly, as needed to shift the standards.”

“The defendants found a new way to deny CEF the same benefit they freely bestow upon the Scouts, even though CEF’s program is constitutionally indistinguishable from the Scouts,” Staver said.

cefA federal court, in Child Evangelism Fellowship of San Fernando Valley v. Los Angeles Unified School District, ruled that a public school may not charge discriminatory fees to religious clubs. Liberty Counsel represented CEF in that case.

The United States Supreme Court, in Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School, similarly held that public school districts must treat CEF on the same basis as the Boy Scouts and other nonreligious groups.

“Good News Clubs is one of the most positive things to happen to public schools. Imposing a financial barrier based on the religious viewpoint violates the right to free speech and hurts children,” said Mat Staver. “The Cleveland Metropolitan School District cannot require CEF to pay prohibitive fees to use the same public facilities, at the same time and for the same activities, as nonreligious groups which are granted free access.”

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono legal assistance and representation on these and related topics.