Tomorrow, Mat Staver will be in Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati, arguing CEF v. Cleveland Metropolitan School District on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Ohio (CEF) regarding the ministry’s Good News Club. The religious, after-school club is seeking equal access to school facilities after the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Miles@Cranwood Elementary School Principal Chantelle Lewis began charging the club a discriminatory access fee. The school selectively waives fees for some groups.
During the 2011/2012 school year, CEF maintained a Good News Club at Miles@Cranwood Elementary School without being assessed any facility-use fees. However, last year, the District began charging CEF $69.50 per hour, and the club had to close. Although the school district states that every community group is required to pay the fee to use the facility, the Boy Scouts of America, another character-building youth club, is conducting after-school meetings at 41 schools, including Miles@Cranwood Elementary School, free of charge.
“The School District thinks it can deny CEF the same benefit freely bestowed upon similar non-religious groups, even though CEF’s program is constitutionally indistinguishable from the Scouts,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Good News Clubs are one of the most positive things to happen to public schools. Children are taught character, moral development, and respect. Imposing a financial barrier based on the religious viewpoint violates the right to free speech and hurts children,” continued Staver. “The Cleveland Metropolitan School District cannot require CEF to pay fees to use the same public facilities, at the same time and for the same activities, as nonreligious groups which are granted free access.”
A federal court, in Child Evangelism Fellowship of San Fernando Valley v. Los Angeles Unified School District, ruled that a public school may not charge discriminatory fees to religious clubs. Liberty Counsel represented CEF in that case. The United States Supreme Court, in Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School, similarly held that public school districts must treat CEF on the same basis as the Boy Scouts and other nonreligious groups. Liberty Counsel represents Child Evangelism Fellowship nationwide and has never lost a CEF case at the court of appeals.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.