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Suit Filed After Ariz. School District Bans Christian Club's Fliers

January 21, 2012|10:12 am

An after-school Christian club is looking to lift the flier ban placed on their organization by the Dysart Unified School District in Phoenix, Ariz., prohibiting them from distributing invitations and permission slips to attend their meetings.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit in federal court on Thursday on behalf of the Good News Club, a ministry of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, stating that the district's ban was unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment.

While the district permitted a variety of other organizations to distribute their literature at the schools, including the Boy Scouts, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Interfaith Community Care, Sun City Area Interfaith Services, and the Salvation Army Sun City Corps, it denied CEF Phoenix's request because it purportedly went against their policy to distribute literature of a "religious nature."

"The fliers of Christian groups shouldn't be banned while other groups can freely invite students to their meetings and activities," ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement. "That's the position of numerous federal court rulings, and Dysart's flier policies fit the mold of those that have been declared unconstitutional."

Child Evangelism Fellowship has been involved in several similar cases, being a national ministry, and has succeeded in "every one of those," Tedesco told The Christian Post over the phone.

"I think there's a good chance of success here," he added. "Many courts across the country have ruled that when a school district opens a forum for literature distribution, the school district also has to include religious speakers in that forum."

The Good News Club in question met after school at West Point Elementary School in the Phoenix suburb of Surprise. In October, CEF Phoenix submitted a Flier Approval Request Form and sample flier to the district's community specialist to advertise their newly formed club at WPES.

But the district denied their request because it went "against district policy" due to their religious nature.

"That's precisely what the government is not permitted to do under the First Amendment," Tedesco explained. "The courts have repeatedly ruled that fliers for religious events cannot be censored in this manner, especially while fliers for other types of events are being allowed. Discrimination based on viewpoint is simply not allowed under the U.S. Constitution."

So why would the district allow the Good News Club use of their facilities but not allow the distribution of fliers?

"That's a good question that I don't know the answer to," the ADF attorney responded. "You would think that if they allowed the club, they would allow the flier, but the district did not do so."

"It all boils down to a misperception of what the establishment clause requires. School districts for some reason think that the Establishment Clause requires them to exclude religious speakers from these kinds of forums but that's simply not the case."

"The First Amendment is very clear that when the school district opens a forum for outside groups to distribute outside literature they have to open that forum to religious groups," Tedesco noted. "Denying that right to religious groups is unconstitutional."

ADF is asking the courts to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction, restraining the district from enforcing practices and policies that infringe upon the constitutional rights of their plaintiff.

It is also hoping that the court will issue a declaratory judgment declaring Dysart Unified School District Policies unconstitutional and in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Act.

Good News Club is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship where children can learn about the Bible, sing songs, memorize Scripture and play games or other related activities.

Every club includes strong discipleship training to build character and strengthen moral and spiritual growth. The Gospel is also presented.

CEF notes on their website that the Bible can be taught freely to children in public schools through the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2001 that allowed the Good News Club to meet in public schools in the United States after school hours on the same terms as other community groups, with the parents' permission.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/suit-filed-after-ariz-school-district-bans-after-school-christian-clubs-fliers-67642/