New York High School Rejects Student's Request to Launch Christian Club 'Dare to Believe'

Liz Loverde, a student at Wantagh High School in New York, has asked to start a Christian club at her school called 'Dare to Believe,' but officials have rejected her request.
Liz Loverde, a student at Wantagh High School in New York, has asked to start a Christian club at her school called "Dare to Believe," but officials have rejected her request. | (Photo: Courtesy of Liberty Institute)

A New York high school has rejected a student's request to have a Christian club on campus, prompting possible legal action by a Texas-based organization.

Wantagh High School of the Wantagh Union Free School District recently denied official recognition for Elizabeth Loverde's proposed club "Dare to Believe."

In response to the rejection, Loverde and her family contacted the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, which sent a letter Monday to the principal, as well as to other school district officials.

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"Once a secondary school such as yours creates a limited open forum, it cannot deny equal access to student groups on the basis of the religious content of the students' speech," read the letter. "We therefore demand that the school reconsider its position, approve Liz's club proposal, and grant official recognition to Dare to Believe."

Hiram Sasser, managing director of strategic litigation for the Liberty Institute, told The Christian Post that as of Tuesday, Wantagh School District officials "have not responded to the letter."

"[Legal action] shouldn't be necessary. … We have no idea why the school district is rebelling against this well settled law. ... Congress passed a law signed by President Reagan and the Supreme Court ruled more than 15 years ago that schools must allow faith based clubs," Sasser told CP.

In September, Loverde met with Wantagh Principal Carolyn Breivogel about the possibility of starting a Christian club called Dare to Believe.

Reportedly, Breivogel rejected the student club idea under the assumption that having a Christian student organization recognized would violate the U.S. Constitution.

In their demand letter sent Monday, attorneys with the Liberty Institute ally Bancroft PLLC argued that Wantagh's rejection violates the Equal Access Act of 1984.

"The Equal Access Act of 1984 provides that once a secondary school such as yours creates a
'limited open forum,' i.e., … once the school 'grants an offering to or opportunity for one or more noncurriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time' — the school must not 'deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings,'" read the letter.

In a statement provided to local media, officials with the Wantagh School District have denied Loverde's sequence of events.

Officials have insisted that the Dare to Believe proposal has not yet been rejected and is still under review, according to WABC-TV. "As it is required with all student clubs, proper protocol and procedures must be followed and implemented before the club can be formally recognized. The district is currently reviewing this request."

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