A New York school district has decided to approve a student's proposal to start a Christian club at her high school called "Dare to Believe" after she was initially told that her student organization would be a possible violation of the U.S. constitution.
In September, student Liz 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 response to the rejection from Wantagh High School of the Wantagh Union Free School District, Loverde and her family contacted the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, which sent a letter to the principal last Monday, as well as to other school district officials alerting them that they were violating the Equal Access Act of 1984 for denying her request.
Subsequently, the district's board of education decided to approve seven student clubs last Thursday, including the Christian group Dare to Believe.
Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with Liberty Institute, said in a statement released Monday that he was "glad" that Wantagh officials will now recognize the Christian student group.
"It took a lot of courage for a 15-year-old girl to come forward to reveal that her principal said Christian clubs are illegal," said Dys. "It is always a scary position for students to take a stand against government school authorities who hold significant power over their everyday lives. We look forward to Wantagh High School respecting Liz's religious liberty at school."
After her request to start a Christian club was reportedly rejected, lawyers with the Liberty Institute sent a letter to Wantagh officials arguing that the school district was violating the Equal Access Act of 1984.
"The school officially recognizes more than 30 student groups, including a wide variety of noncurriculum related student groups such as the Wantagh Animal Rights & Recycling Club, the Rube Goldberg Club, the Key Club, and Variation Club," read the letter, in part.
"These student organizations enjoy not only the use of space within the school for meetings but also other access that is only available to officially recognized student groups."
According to local media reports, Wantagh officials denied having rejected Loverde's request to grant recognition to Dare to Believe.
"As it is required with all student clubs, proper protocol and procedures must be followed and implemented before the club can be formally recognized," stated the school district.
Dare to Believe was one of many student organizations that were given official recognition at last Thursday's meeting, noted Andrew Hackmack of the LI Herald.
"In addition to Dare to Believe, the board also approved the Accounting, American Sign Language, FIDM Fashion, Film, and Olympics of the Visual Arts clubs, and the National Science Honor Society," reported Hackmack.
"The organizations will be permitted to meet informally as the district moves forward with the process of securing and appointing advisors."
Maureen Goldberg, superintendent of Wantagh School District, said in a statement that at no point were Wantagh officials violating the Equal Access Act.
"No one in administration at any level denied this opportunity to any of the clubs, including Dare to Believe," Goldberg asserted. "No school administrator, at any level, attempted to deter the application and approval process from proceeding."