***Update (11/19/14)***: We’re finally hearing the district’s side of the story. They say the protocol requires students to submit club applications in the fall for inclusion in the budget the following year. Loverde submitted her application and has already started informally meeting with her group, but it would take a full year before it gets considered a school-approved club. But Loverde still says the principal gave her a different story:
Loverde said the principal turned her down and wouldn’t even read the proposal.
Loverde said she went back a second time and presented Breivogel with a copy of the Equal Access Act of 1984 that makes it illegal to deny students the right to form a religious club on campus. Loverde said Breivogel then took the proposal and “crossed out ‘Christian’ and said it must be for all religions. Loverde also said that the principal told her it would be presented to the Board of Education but then “changed her mind” because parents would not like the idea.
Gilligan said none of this is true, and the Board of Education is aware of the student’s proposal and intention to form this club.
At Wantagh High School in New York, a student says the principal is denying her attempt to form a Christian club:
Wantagh High School sophomore Liz Loverde, 15, said she presented her principal with a proposal to form the club in September but was told she could not because it would be illegal. “I felt terrible,” Loverde said Monday. “I felt really disappointed. It was such a good idea.”
That’s crazy. The Equal Access Act of 1984 says that if a public school has any extracurricular clubs, it can’t reject a club on the basis of religion (provided all the proper paperwork is completed). We see this all the time when it comes to atheist clubs.
And even though I can’t recall Liberty Institute ever saying, “The Freedom From Religion Foundation is right,” I’ll say it here: Liberty Institute is right; there’s no reason for the school to say no to a Christian club. They sent the district a letter on Monday warning that a lawsuit could be forthcoming if school officials didn’t comply.
We therefore demand that the school reconsider its position, approve Liz’s club proposal, and grant official recognition to Dare to Believe. To the extent approval by the Board of Education is necessary, the Board should immediately review Liz’s proposal, approve it at its next meeting on this Wednesday, November 20, and permit Dare to Believe to begin meeting as a recognized student club no later than Monday, December 1.
For some reason, commenters online are telling Loverde that she should respect church/state separation and form this club at her church. Which is completely ignorant. She has every right to form a Christian club, just as other students have a right to form a Muslim or atheist club. It’s just that simple.
I’m genuinely surprised to hear any school official claim that a religious club would be unconstitutional. That’s the sort of thing you learn about in Principaling 101. (Edit: I should mention the school says the club is simply “under review,” though it’s unclear how long that process takes and if what’s happening in this instance is typical of all new clubs.)
In any case, best of luck to Loverde. I hope she gets her club soon.
(Image via Liberty Institute. Thanks to Jaynee for the link)