A Christian group is suing a New York school district for a spot on a local high school's list of student clubs.
The Frontline Club, a discipleship program based in South Carolina, has brought the legal challenge against the Hicksville Union Free School District Board of Education, alleging that it was denied access to the school because the club is Christian in nature. Without official recognition, FLC is not allowed to hold meetings, make announcements or post its flyer on the campus.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, reveals that Hicksville High School Principal Brijinder Singh told students appealing for the club, "Other schools may have a [Christian club], but I don't want this in my school."
Singh said her decision was based solely on costs. According to Singh, if she recognized FLC, then she would also have to recognize clubs for every religion. The cost of providing an adviser for the religious clubs, she stated, would be "prohibitive at this economically stringent time."
David Cortman, the Alliance Defense Fund attorney leading the lawsuit, mocked Singh's rationale for not allowing FLC on campus. "It's ridiculous that Hicksville High School says it has no budget for a Christian club but somehow has enough for a ping pong club."
The ping pong club is one 35 officially recognized student clubs on the high school's campus. All the clubs have advisers, which is a mandatory requirement for all school groups. ADF pointed out that the Hicksville school district has a budget of $117 million and should be able to afford the cost of an FLC adviser.
Court documents reveal that Singh has rejected several previous attempts by students to start a Christian club. She required that any religious club be “multi-faith” for all religions and denominations and that non-believers be allowed to lead the religious club.
FLC was founded by Pastor Emeritus John Vaughn of Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. The goal of the club is to disciple its members in the teachings of Jesus Christ, according to the website. The club members participate in Bible study, worship, prayer, fellowship and community service activities. They also discuss, from a biblical perspective, various issues facing students, including peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse and abstinence.
The two students in the case requested permission to start the club in October 2010. They are had 12 students willing to be active members and a teacher willing to serve as the club’s adviser. Singh twice denied official recognition of Frontline.
Cortman said the principal's refusal to recognize the club violates the constitutional and statutory right of FLC and the two unnamed Hicksville High students who requested the club be brought to campus.
"Public schools cannot ban Christian student clubs simply because they are religious," he said. "Students have a constitutionally-protected right to express their beliefs."
ADF argues in its lawsuit that the school is restricting the Christian students’ religious speech and activities in an otherwise open forum. The school’s actions constitute viewpoint discrimination, ADF charges. Plaintiffs are seeking official recognition and equal access to club benefits and privileges.