Victory for Child Evangelism Fellowship Good News Clubs

Aug 29, 2012

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN – A federal appeals court ruled today that the Minneapolis Special School District No. 1 engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it removed Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) from the after-school program. Overturning a lower court decision, in a 3-0 decision the court of appeals stated, “When the government targets a particular viewpoint taken by speakers on a general subject, the First Amendment is violated.” Liberty Counsel represented CEF in this case.

CEF’s Good News Club (GNC), a Christian, after-school program for children ages 5-12, had been an approved member of the Minnesota Public Schools Community Partners since 2000 and had participated in the after-school program from 2005-2009. In 2009, a school employee determined to revoke CEF’s after-school program because the GNC included prayer and “proselytizing.”

The district court sided with the school district, citing to the Supreme Court case of Good News Club v. Milford, but erroneously relied on Justice Stevens’ opinion as “concurrence,” when, in fact, it was a “dissent.” 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.”

“The Establishment Clause requires neutrality, as opposed to hostility, towards religion,” said Judge Beam. “The Supreme Court has stated and restated, ‘Neutrality is respected, not offended, when the government…extends benefits to recipients whose ideologies and viewpoints, including religious ones, are broad and diverse.’”

“The only rationale for discrimination against Good News Clubs is ignorance of the law or animosity toward the Christian message,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who argued the case on appeal.  “The law is crystal clear. Christian viewpoints are constitutionally protected. Public schools must provide equal access for Christian viewpoints and Christian clubs. The federal appeals court nailed every point of this case exactly right,” Staver concluded.

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 assistance and representation on these and related topics.



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