School District Lifts Ban Against Christian Group's Promotion of Good News Clubs at Elementary Schools

First grader Adam Kotzian (C) does a spelling drill with classmates in his classroom at Eagleview Elementary school in Thornton, Colorado, March 31, 2010.
First grader Adam Kotzian (C) does a spelling drill with classmates in his classroom at Eagleview Elementary school in Thornton, Colorado, March 31, 2010. | (Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)

A school district in Washington state has reversed its decision banning a Christian group from distributing flyers to elementary students.

Cascade School District halted Child Evangelism Fellowship and its Good News Club from distributing promotional flyers last year following a parental complaint.

However, after being contacted by the Liberty Counsel, the school district will once again allow the CEF to promote the Good News Club to elementary school students.

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Liberty Counsel founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement on Monday that Cascade officials made the right choice by allowing CEF to distribute their flyers.

"The Cascade School District made the appropriate decision to eliminate the unconstitutional policy and recognize that the Good News Club has equal access to students," said Staver.

"Public schools cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints and allow other organizations to promote their materials. We are elated with this victory for Child Evangelism Fellowship, for equal access and for our Constitution."

Last October, Richard L. Mast of the Liberty Counsel sent a letter of complaint to the Cascade School District after they banned CEF from passing out promotional flyers.

The school district had cited Cascade School Board Policy 2340(F) to justify their ban. BP 2340 states that "Material and/or announcements promoting religion may not be distributed by non-students or on behalf of groups or individuals who are not students."

Mast denounced the school board's policy provision as unconstitutional, noting that the 2001 United States Supreme Court decision Good News Club v. Milford Central School District states that Good News Clubs "must be granted the same access to public school sites as other youth groups engaged in moral and character development such as the Boy Scouts, notwithstanding any religious viewpoint."

"Both the prohibition and the section of Board Policy ("BP") 2340 supporting it violate the First Amendment and are unconstitutional," wrote Mast.

"The decision should be reversed, and Section F of this policy, and any others making unconstitutional distinctions regarding religion, should be discarded so as to avoid unnecessary liability for civil rights violations."

This is not the first time that Cascade School District has come under fire regarding the issue of religious liberty. In 2013, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent school officials a letter of complaint regarding Bible handouts.

According to FFRF, Cascade was allowing for the Christian evangelist group the Gideons to pass out copies of the New Testament on public high school property.

"A concerned member of the school district reached out to FFRF after the Gideons handed out Bibles to the students at Cascade High School. FFRF was informed that the Gideon men tricked students into taking the Bible by passing them out upside-down," noted FFRF in July of 2013.

"FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to Cascade School District Superintendent Steve McKenna in a June 27 letter requesting the Gideons not be allowed on public school property to distribute religious material. McKenna responded to FFRF on July 10 that the Gideons will not be allowed on campus in the future."

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