The Pajaro Valley Unified School District recently approved a Christian organization's distribution of permission slips promoting an after-school Bible study club for students, reversing their initial decision.
Previously, the district did not allow the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Santa Cruz County to distribute permission slips for their Good News Club because the flyers contained the word "Bible" and "Bible stories."
But after CEF called Liberty Counsel – an organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom – for help, the district quickly reversed their decision upon receiving a letter from the Counsel.
The group noted that the superintendent was under the misguided impression that the Establishment Clause prohibited literature distributed to the students from containing a religious reference.
Consequently, the district told CEF that unless the word "Bible" was removed from the permission slip, they would not be able to use their school's flyer distribution channels, which prohibited the promotion of a specific religion or proselytizing.
Representing several other similar CEF cases, Liberty Counsel stated that it was a common misconception among public school districts that religious words should be prohibited from literature given to students.
"The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that public schools must provide equal access and treatment to religious speech," Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, affirmed in a statement. "Equal treatment applies to use of facilities and every other opportunity provided to secular speech or groups."
"We are pleased that the school district did the right thing after the officials learned of the law regarding the First Amendment. Good News Clubs have been widely accepted on public school campuses across the country. They provide great programs for children."
Richard Mast of LC observed that the district had simply made a mistake, a matter of misinterpretation, he told OneNewsNow. "I don't attribute it to actual ... hostility, because we've definitely seen hostility in other situations."
"The law requires neutrality, not hostility toward religion," Mast added.
Child Evangelism Fellowship has been teaching the Gospel freely in public schools for the past 10 years. Jesse Irvin Overholtzer established CEF in 1937 for the purpose of evangelizing to children all throughout the world.
Because CEF is taught in schools, along with community centers, apartment complexes, and churches, many believed the clubs were in violation of the Establishment Clause.
But in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School that permitting Good News Club to meet on school premises did not violate the Establishment Clause.
They stated that the clubs could meet in public schools in the United States after school hours on the same terms as other community groups.
Justice Clarence Thomas who wrote for the majority stated, according to the New York Times, "We cannot say the danger that children would misperceive the endorsement of religion is any greater than the danger that they would perceive a hostility toward the religious viewpoint if the club were excluded from the public forum."
In 2010, more than 133,000 school children attended an after-school Good News Club conducted in more than 3,000 public schools.
"We need to do all we can, in God's strength, to reach into as many schools and reach as many children as possible while the door is still open," Lori Marzolf, the director of CEF Santa Cruz County wrote in a recent newsletter.
When contacted by The Christian Post to respond to the recent decision by the school district to allow the distribution of their flyers, the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Santa Cruz County did not immediately provide a response.