|Turlock, CA—After charging Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) a facility-use fee while other clubs met for free, Turlock Unified School District has reversed its decision and refunded the improperly assessed fees.
CEF contacted Liberty Counsel after the coordinator met with the Turlock Assistant Superintendent, who said that the school board has discretion in determining how these charges should be distributed and which organizations must pay them.
Liberty Counsel reviewed the school district’s policies and found no justification for the disparate treatment. The total amount improperly assessed equaled $5,295, with security deposits already paid equaling $1,200. While these amounts are significant to nearly anyone, they are particularly so to a non-profit organization with a focus on children.
After Liberty Counsel sent a letter requesting equal treatment, the District refunded all improperly assessed fees and suspended billing. “Imposing a financial barrier based on the religious viewpoint violates the right to free speech and hurts children,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Turlock Unified School District cannot treat Christian groups as a second-class by requiring them 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.”
A 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 Supreme Court held in Good News Club v. Milford, “Speech discussing otherwise permissible subjects cannot be excluded from a limited public forum on the grounds that the subject is discussed from a religious viewpoint.”
Child Evangelism Fellowship has been encouraging learning, spiritual growth, and service to others for over seventy years and is currently active in every state in the union, as well as over 183 countries. Good News Clubs worldwide is providing religious and moral education to children in 43,186 clubs. In an April 2013 CEF survey, 87% of principals responded that after-school Good News Clubs have been a positive experience for their school, and 52% reported noticeably improved behavior on the part of students who participate in the Good News Clubs.
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.