Student-Led Bible Study Group Gains Equal Access to School Facilities

( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:55 AM EST

According to the attorneys of The Rutherford Institute, which is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights, a Bible Study group, organized by students at Shorecrest High School is now given the same privileges as other student groups.

Before Rutherford’s intervention, the Bible Study group couldn’t gain equal access to the school’s bulletin boards, public address system, yearbook and student group funding. The school officials were resistant to officially recognize the group as one of ASB (associated student body) because they were in concern of violating “separation of church and state.”

While school officials refused ASB club status and its benefits to the Bible study group, they extended it to other non-curricular student groups, including the Key Club, Dance Team, Chess Team, Highland Dancers, Swing Club and “Connecting Muslims and Non-Muslims.”

In September 2003, one of the members of Bible Study group at the school named Sarah Marie Pence, contacted The Rutherford Institute and the attorneys were able to advise the Shoreline School District about the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act that these two require the extension of the same privileges to the Bible Study group just as other student-led groups enjoy. The district agreed to recognize that obligation.

The Shoreline (Wash.) School District instructed the student activity coordinator of the school to allow the Bible Study group to have the same privileges that other groups of ABA enjoy. Now the Bible Study group will receive the access to the school’s bulletin boards, public address system, yearbook, and student group funding.

“While The Rutherford Institute is glad that Shoreline School District has recognized its obligation to provide equal treatment to religious students, we continue to fight this battle over and over again with misguided school districts across the country,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Federal law and the Constitution are clear — voluntary religious speech must be given a place in the schoolhouse.”