Good News for the Good News Club: Child Evangelism Fellowship Wins Legal Victory in Minneapolis
Contact: Melody Bentley, 571-274-6058
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Aug. 31, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Minneapolis Special School District No. 1 must reinstate the Good News Club, sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship, in its after-school program, ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit yesterday. The federal appeals court determined that the school district engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it ousted CEF for offering "enrichment programming from a religious perspective."
"We are extremely grateful for this decision and look forward to the opportunity of serving interested students at the Jenny Lind Elementary School," said Mr. Tom Levanos, executive director of operations for CEF.
This ruling overturned the decision by a lower court which misinterpreted the 2001 Supreme Court decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School. The Supreme Court decision actually upheld the free speech rights of the Good News Club. According to the Court, "there is no logical difference in kind between the invocation of Christianity by the Club and the invocation of teamwork, loyalty, or patriotism by other associations to provide the foundations for their lessons."
Minneapolis Special School District No. 1 removed the GNC from its after-school program in 2009 based on the concerns of a newly-hired site coordinator who overheard a prayer and reference to Jesus Christ during a GNC meeting. The GNC had been meeting at the school, after school hours, using the same activities of prayer, Bible lessons and games, without objection since 2000. As a result of the school district decision, the attendance at the popular GNC plummeted from 47 students to 5 by 2010.
Through the years, the number of court cases involving discrimination against GNCs has steadily decreased as the Supreme Court ruling has become more well-known, said Mr. Matt Staver, of Liberty Counsel, who represented CEF before the federal appeals court. Still, there are challenges each week that are resolved without litigation. Few of these challenges bear the marks of overt hostility towards religion. According to Mr. Staver, most cases are the result of misinformation about the First Amendment and are usually resolved without litigation. When litigation has been necessary, Liberty Counsel has won every case.