PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian group in Rhode Island is suing a school district for prohibiting a religious club from holding after-school meetings on school property, despite allowing a wide variety of secular student groups to do so.
The Epoch Times reported that Liberty Counsel is representing the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Rhode Island in its lawsuit against Providence Public School District for denying the group’s application for weekly meetings on school grounds for the local chapter of its Good News Club.
Good News Clubs, of which there are 4,800 across the country, are meant to “build character and leadership, encourage an attitude of service to others, promote learning, and stimulate spiritual growth in elementary and middle school students,” according to Epoch.
The club was previously allowed to attend, the suit contends, until the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of all extracurricular activities. But when normalcy returned and all other clubs were allowed to resume, Good News was left out.
“I believe it was because the Good News Club is a Christian club,” LC founder and chair Mat Staver says. The suit noted that the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys Club, Girls Club, and YMCA are all allowed school meeting space.
“The law is clear that public schools cannot discriminate against the Christian viewpoint of Good News Clubs,” the group argues, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2001 Good News Club v. Milford ruling that found religious and secular student clubs must be allowed equal access. “Equal access means equal treatment in terms of the use of the facilities, including fee waivers, time of meetings, and announcements,” according to LC.
So far, the Providence Public School District has yet to comment on the case.
Last year, the First Liberty Institute ranked Democrat-controlled Rhode Island 16th in America for statutory safeguards for religious liberty – far from the worst, but with considerable room for improvement.