Federal Court Upholds Equal Access Rights of Children Christian Group

( [email protected] ) Jul 07, 2004 04:00 PM EDT

On June 30, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a youth-targeted evangelistic organization is allowed to distriute fliers to students in Maryland.

The ruling came in favor of the Child Evangelical Fellowship (CEF), a group that was banned from distributing informational fliers about thier "Good News Clubs" because of thier religious contnent. The Maryland school district, which allows other organizations such as the Boy and Girl scouts to hand out fliers on

campus, argued that the endorsment of CEF would equate to the endorsement of religion on public property.

In January 2003, the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom (CLSCLRF)filed suit seeking equal treatment of CEF’s informational fliers. A federal district court in Maryland declined to order equal treatment of CEF, and CEF appealed.

However, in last week's case, the appeals court judges ruled that "the Establishment Clause does not require discrimination against religion," according to CLSCLRF's Greg Baylor.

"They pointed to other parts of the First Amendment, the free speech clause in particular, to conclude that the school district had to give [the Christian club] the same treatment that other community groups were allowed to have," said Baylor.

"The Fourth Circuit’s decision affirms the public schools’ important responsibility to respect the diverse religious viewpoints of the community they serve, including citizens’ right of equal access for religious speech," he continued.

Baylor added the CEF v. Montgomery County Public Schools ruling sends a strong message to other public school systems around the U.S. that "Discrimination is going to be challenged and it's going to be challenged successfully.”

CEF is a respected national organization, which is known for its after-school clubs that have been serving children for 60 years. At the weekly meetings, children listen to a Bible story, learn a Bible verse, sing, play games, and have snacks.