By Gudrun Schultz

  SEATTLE, Washington, July 31, 2006 ( – The principles that informed racial segregation should be applied to high school Christian clubs that require members to support the authority of the bible, a lawyer for a Washington state school suggested in federal court Thursday, according to

  Two students sued Kentridge High School five years ago over the school’s refusal to ratify a bible club that excluded non-Christians from voting rights and membership privileges. After a lower court ruled in favour of Kentridge, the case went before the 9th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals.
  Lawyer for the Kentridge schools, Mike Tierney, told Judge Raymond Fisher of the federal court that as an “arm of the state” a public school district must not sanction any club that is discriminatory, the reported Friday.

  Judge Fisher, however, is reported to have pointedly questioned why the school singled out religion for discrimination charges, when other clubs, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance that focused on those “who believe in a gay way of life,” were not. Judge Fisher suggested Tierney was calling for a double standard of treatment similar to that utilized by racial segregation.

“Separate, but equal?” Judge Fisher retorted, according to the Seattlepi.

“Essentially, yes,” Tierney responded.

  The phrase “separate but equal” is the notorious linguistic contortion that was used throughout the early 20th century to justify the period of institutionalized segregation of people of colour in America. It is unclear whether Tierney fully understood the historical weight of the phrase.

  The Kentridge’s Associated Student Body originally refused to grant charter status to the “Truth in Bible” study group started by students Sarice Undis and Julianne Stewart, saying the group was discriminatory.

  While the group meetings were open to anyone interested in attending, official membership and voting rights were limited to students who would sign a statement acknowledging the Bible to be “the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”

  The students, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal association defending religious freedom, launched the lawsuit on the grounds that their rights to free association, free speech and equal access had been violated.

“The key issue is whether or not a school has the right to force student organizations to open their clubs to everyone,” Tim Chandler, Alliance attorney, told the Seattlepi. “In this case, you’ve got a Christian student club that wants to limit their voting members to Christians, and the school is telling them they must allow non-Christians to be members and officers. That violates their First Amendment rights.

“A Democratic student club is allowed to exclude Republicans from joining their organization and running it and voting, and our clients are simply asking for the same rights for their club. We think the law is pretty clear on the issue.”

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