Civil Rights Group Decries High Court’s Ruling On Religious Groups In Public Schools

The U.S. Supreme Court today took a step toward lowering the First Amendment wall separating church and state that is likely to grant adult-led religious ministries greater access to public schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court today took a step toward lowering the First Amendment wall separating church and state that is likely to grant adult-led religious ministries greater access to public schools.

The high court ruled 6-3 in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, that the Milford, New York public school district must permit the Good News Club to conduct adult-led religious activities for grade-school children. The court’s ruling overturned the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled last year that the Milford School District’s policy of barring school grounds from the use of "any individual or organization for religious purposes," did not subvert the free expression rights of the Good News Club and protected the school district from violating the separation of church and state.

People For the American Way Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the high court to uphold the school district’s decision. PFAW Foundation argued, in part, that allowing an adult-led Christian youth group to use school space immediately after school could create the impression among young students that the school was endorsing Christianity.

"The Supreme Court’s Good News decision is actually bad news for religious liberty," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. "The decision threatens to open public schools all over the country to missionaries and other groups working to proselytize school children, thereby undermining the First Amendment’s separation of church and state."

Since 1996, the Good News Club, which describes itself as a community-based Christian youth group for children 6 to 12, has attempted to reserve space at a Milford school to offer after-school religious activities. Citing its policy of barring public school space for religious proposes, Milford school officials refused the religious group’s requests.

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