School district reverses ban on religious fliers
Lawsuit spelled out officials' violation of First Amendment rights
Reacting to a federal lawsuit, an Arizona school district has reversed its decision to ban the distribution of fliers at a public school for a Christian club that meets off campus after regular class hours.
The Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Ariz., near Phoenix, had banned the publicity for the Good News Club, a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship, because of the district’s belief that the material’s “religious nature” violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
But attorneys aligned with the Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Arizona Policy filed a lawsuit in January arguing that several federal court decisions have declared such bans unconstitutional.
“A Christian organization should have the same right to publicize its voluntary meetings as other groups do,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
“The district has done the right thing in approving the Good News Club fliers for distribution and revising its policies that banned religious fliers,” he said. “That will allow the club and other similar groups to have the same access to publicize their events to students that all other groups enjoy.”
Last October, Child Evangelism Fellowship Phoenix submitted a completed “Flier Approval Request Form” and sample flier to the district’s community specialist. The club wanted to advertise a Good News Club meeting after school at West Point Elementary School in Surprise, according to ADF
ADF, an evangelical Christian coalition of attorneys, noted the district already had approved fliers for groups such as the Boy Scouts, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Interfaith Community Care, Sun City Area Interfaith Services, Salvation Army Sun City Corps, Valley of the Sun United Way and a number of local governments.
The Good News Club flier contained a disclaimer that said the district did not endorse or sponsor the club or its activities.
The district rejected the flier, however, because it was “against district policy” to promote a program that is “religious in nature.”
After the ADF lawsuit, the district’s Board of Education amended its policies in April, removing the ban on fliers of a religious nature.
ADF attorney’s responded Thursday by voluntarily dismissing the lawsuit. The district has agreed to pay CEF’s attorney fees.