Published On: Thu, Feb 8th, 2018

Indiana court rules school punishing Good News Club with meeting fees

An Indiana federal district court has granted Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) a permanent injunction against an unconstitutional policy that the School District of Pike Township used to discriminate against Good News Clubs. Liberty Counsel represents CEF nationwide. One of the ministries of CEF is after-school Good News Clubs for children K-5.

photo Pearson Scott Foresman

In violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the District previously required CEF to pay facilities use fees for Good News Club meetings, while waiving the fees for similarly situated, non-religious groups. For nearly two school years, the District ignored CEF’s numerous attempts to resolve the constitutional violations. This deprived Pike Township elementary students of the Good News Club’s program, which CEF offers to all interested students free of charge.

Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of CEF. The Court previously granted CEF a preliminary injunction, concluding that the District’s policy was likely to be found unconstitutional, and requiring the District to immediately waive facility fees for CEF in the same manner as for other non-religious clubs.
After further litigation, the case has now been fully resolved in favor of CEF. The Court has entered an Agreed Permanent Injunction and Judgment which permanently prohibits the District from charging CEF any facility fees in the future. The Court also ordered the District to pay back to CEF all of the discriminatory facility fees that were unconstitutionally charged and to pay Liberty Counsel the sum of $85,000 as and for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
CEF has been encouraging learning, spiritual growth, moral development, and service to children ages 5-12 since 1937 and is actively expanding its ministry into new nations and new areas within nations, with a goal of reaching “Every Child, Every Nation, Every Day.”
Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel said, “This permanent injunction against the Indiana Metropolitan School District of Pike Township is a great victory for free speech and religious freedom. Equal access is a simple concept. It means equal treatment in use of school facilities, including fee waivers, meeting times and announcement venues. Public schools cannot discriminate against clubs with Christian viewpoints while letting secular clubs speak on the same subjects. The Good News Club must be given the same access and benefits as the non-religious groups,” said Mihet.
“We are pleased that the Indiana Metropolitan School District of Pike Township’s policy has been permanently blocked by the court,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Schools cannot discriminate against the religious viewpoint of Good News Clubs. This has been the clear ruling from the Supreme Court since 2001. Good News Clubs are good for children, parents, and especially good for schools,” said Staver.
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