Ariz. Christian Student Club Wins; Can Distribute Religious Fliers

Students at an elementary school in Phoenix, Ariz., will be allowed to pass out fliers promoting a Good News Club after-school program as the result of a settlement between district officials and a Christian lawyers association.

The Alliance Defense Fund announced Thursday that the Dysart Unified School District, which had rejected the fliers because of their "religious nature" last January, had reversed their decision.

"A Christian organization should have the same right to publicize its voluntary meetings as other groups do," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "The district has done the right thing in approving the Good News Club fliers for distribution and revising its policies that banned religious fliers. That will allow the club and other similar groups to have the same access to publicize their events to students that all other groups enjoy."

In October 2011, Child Evangelism Fellowship Phoenix submitted a completed request form for flier approval and sample flier to the district's community specialist to advertise a new Good News Club to meet after school at West Point Elementary School in the Phoenix suburb of Surprise, ADF stated. According to the group of lawyers, the district had already approved fliers for a wide variety of community groups, including the Boy Scouts, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Interfaith Community Care, Sun City Area Interfaith Services, Salvation Army Sun City Corps, Valley of the Sun United Way, and a number of local governments.

"Although the flier contained a disclaimer that said the district did not endorse or sponsor the club or its activities, the district rejected it on the grounds that it was 'against district policy' because the program being promoted was 'religious in nature,'" ADF said. In early April, the district's Board of Education amended its policies by removing their prohibitions on fliers of a religious nature, "thereby ensuring equal access for religious groups in the future."

ADF attorneys filed a "voluntary dismissal" of the lawsuit on Thursday because the school district has approved the Good News Club fliers for distribution, changed its unconstitutional policies, and agreed to pay CEF's attorneys' fees, the alliance said.

Attorneys with the Center for Arizona Policy served as co-counsel in the case, Child Evangelism Fellowship Phoenix v. Dysart Unified School District, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The Good News Club is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship in which trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, and just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet with their parent's permission, the organization states. The weekly Bible studies includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson's theme.

CEF says that as with its other ministries, "the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living."

A school district official had previously declined comment on the lawsuit, according to a local Phoenix report.

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