PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT - 800-671-1776
Appeals Court Rules That Public School Teacher May Participate In A Christian
After-School Good News Club For Elementary Students
First ruling of its kind in the nation!
MN – Today, the Eighth
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Barbara Wigg, a public school teacher
in Sioux Falls, SD, may participate in a Christian after-school Good News
Club for elementary students. This ruling is the first of its kind in the
country. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel,
represents, Barbara Wigg.
News Clubs are sponsored by Child Evangelism
Fellowship. These meetings are for elementary students who attend with
parental permission. Children who attend the club meetings sing Christian
songs, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and learn about morals and character
development. The Sioux Falls School District policy allowed both religious
and secular groups to use school facilities for after-school meetings. Mrs.
Wigg, who teaches at Anderson Elementary School, has participated in many
after-school secular meetings, including Girl Scouts. Mrs. Wigg has been
an outstanding teacher for many years and loves to teach children. However,
the District prohibited her from participating in the Good News Club. The
District argued that allowing a public school teacher to participate in
a religious club and teach Christian viewpoints to elementary students after
school would violate the Establishment Clause.
Counsel filed suit on behalf of Mrs. Wigg. On July 3, 2003, a Sioux Falls
lower federal court ruled that the District could not ban teachers like
Mrs. Wigg from participating in the Club at a school other than where she
taught during the day, but the District could prohibit such participation
in the school where she teaches during the day. The lower court reasoned
that students and parents who know Mrs. Wigg would not understand that she
changed hats from being a teacher to a private citizen, and thus might conclude
that the school endorsed religion. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed,
and ruled that Mrs. Wigg has the right to teach and participate in the Good
News Club immediately after school on the same campus where she teaches
during the day, as well as on any other campus in the District.
Court of Appeals ruled that the District’s policy banning teachers
from participating in religious club meetings designed for elementary students
immediately after school is “viewpoint discriminatory and, thus, per
se unconstitutional.” The Court ruled that Mrs. Wigg’s “participation
in the after-school Club constitutes private speech … [and that her]
private speech does not put the [District] at risk of violating the Establishment
Clause.” This ruling is the first of its kind in the nation.
to Staver, “Barbara Wigg cried for joy when I informed her of this
great victory. Many public school teachers across America have been waiting
with anticipation for this decision. Public school teachers and employees
have the same right to participate in Christian clubs for students or adults
immediately after school just like those who participate in secular clubs.
Teachers who desire to take off their official teaching hat and put on a
private one, step down the hall after the last bell, and participate in
religious clubs have been finally liberated by this Court’s decision.
When the state accommodates private religious speech in public venues, it
is acting consistent with the best of our constitutional guarantees.”
News Reports on this Case:
4, 2004 Argus Leader: "Teacher may lead Bible study"