Friday, January 27, 2012

Fliers for Religious Clubs Banned in Arizona and Oklahoma

          Late last week, attorneys from Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of the Good News Club, a Christian club in the Dysart Unified School District of Arizona, claiming that a ban on the distribution of the club’s fliers is unconstitutional. The fliers were banned on the basis that publishing and distributing fliers (or any literature) of a “religious nature” is against district policy. Jeremy Tedesco, legal counsel for the Good News Club, claims that this ban is a direct violation of the First Amendment, and attributes the district’s breach to a “…misperception of what the establishment clause requires.” He goes on to say that the First Amendment mandates equal treatment among all groups – religious or otherwise – and states that denying this group from distributing fliers when other groups are being permitted to advertise their activities in this manner is unconstitutional. Tedesco is asking the court for an injunction that would prevent the district from continuing to infringe upon the rights of the club.
          A similar story is unfolding in Oklahoma, where students of Northeast Elementary School are suing the Owasso Public School system for hindering their attempts at advertising their Bible study group in the same manner as other school groups. Again, the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of the youth group, citing the district’s policy as a direct violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Both the Good News Club and the Kids for Christ  youth group are permitted to make use of school facilities for their meetings and activities, but the policies restricting the manner in which the clubs can promote their group is hindering their ability to attract new members.
          These two situations are essentially identical, and consequently, they raise the same issue: To what degree should the church be separate from the state? Personally, I think the ban is unconstitutional and unnecessary. First, if the school is going to allow other, non-religious groups to advertise through fliers and other literature, the Christian clubs should be permitted to promote their organization in a similar fashion. Also, because it is the students – not the school – that endorse the club, any argument that the state would be promoting Christianity is unfounded. What the state is doing is restricting these students’ rights on the basis of their religious beliefs, something which is clearly prohibited in the First Amendment.
          Not only is the ban unconstitutional, but it is also unnecessary. Those who do not wish to read the fliers are not required to do so. Throughout the school year students are bombarded with fliers and advertisements for things like intramural sports, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, chess club, science club, Mathletes, art club, cheer-leading, etc. The fact that the majority of these announcements will end up in trash cans or recycle bins clearly points to the student’s ability to determine which activities they may be interested in. The Christian club fliers are no different. Students are capable of making informed decisions about which clubs they wish to participate in based on their own values and beliefs. As long as the fliers follow reasonable guidelines that are applicable to all groups, the Good News Club and all other Christian clubs should be permitted to promote their gatherings in the same manner as other outside groups. 


Blake_S said...

I believe that Alexis A raises some interesting points in her reflection about these two law suits. I do not see a problem with the ban that the district is imposing on the Christian clubs due to the nature of the flyer. There were numerous organizations that were mentioned able to post in the school but none with a direct tie to a religious tradition and this leads to a secular approach to the students. Also, the students in the clubs are in elementary school. These are young children and I am interesting in see how religious influence in the school would effect children at a young age if it did at all. Thanks Alexis for the interesting post!

Olivea M said...

I believe that this is a clear violation of the First Amendment. The Christian school groups are not affiliated with the overall views of the schools. Religious groups of any denomination should be allowed to have a club at their school and should also be able to distribute flyers to promote their group. They should not be treated differently than any other club at the school. I think that the Arizona and Oklahoma public school districts are misinterpreting the First Amendment and in doing so they are abridging the rights of their students.

Emrah K said...

It is very interesting that somehow people consider secular rules as 'objective'. I think a person can be either religious or secular. If there is the freedom of religion, there should not be ban for any religious activity individually or collectively. However, religious people or organizations should not oppress people to draw their attention. I am not sure but some Christians are very eager to spread the religion, maybe the reason of the ban is it.