Rhode Island School District to Allow Good News Clubs After Discrimination Lawsuit
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A school district in Rhode Island is allowing a Christian club to meet on its school properties after settling a religious discrimination lawsuit.
The Providence Public School District (PPSD) came to an agreement with the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) earlier this week by entering a consent order to allow Good News Clubs in their elementary schools.
In March, the Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of CEF against Providence Public School District and its superintendent, Dr. Javier Montanez, for discriminating against CEF by not allowing its Good News Clubs on campuses while allowing other clubs to meet.
According to the lawsuit, the school district stonewalled its Good News Club from elementary schools for two years.
In 2021 and 2022, CEF submitted several applications to request the use of the school district's facilities. The school district repeatedly ignored the request. However, other organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, and Girls on the Run were given free use of school facilities for after-school programs.
"The District's policies of unequal access and hostility to CEF Rhode Island's religious message violate the Constitution and have denied the District's elementary school students access to free, positive, and character-building Good News Clubs that enrich countless students' lives in other Rhode Island school districts and throughout the country," read the lawsuit.
The Good News Clubs make a clear presentation of the Gospel to children, especially those who don't attend church.
In a video on its Facebook page, CEF highlights the testimony of a 7-year-old girl named Olivia.
"Good News Club is really fun and you get to learn about God," the girl says. "I didn't know that God, that Jesus was God's son. I thought they were split."
According to their website, CEF's goal is to reach 100 million children with the Gospel.
"The law is clear that public schools cannot discriminate against the Christian viewpoint of Good News Clubs. Equal access means equal treatment in terms of the use of the facilities, including fee waivers, time of meetings, and announcements. The Good News Club must be given equal treatment as the non-religious groups," said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver.
The PPSD is now allowing the Good News Clubs into their schools "on the same terms" as other after-school clubs.
"Although Defendants do not concede all of the allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint and dispute some claims arising in this action, the Parties in this action wish to resolve this matter now and hereby consent to entry of this Consent Order," read the order.
"The Parties agree that Providence Public School District is required, under the First Amendment, to provide Child Evangelism Fellowship access to District facilities that are equal to and on the same terms as other similarly situated nonreligious organizations offering programs to students in the District," it continued.
Staver considers the move a "great victory for Child Evangelism Fellowship and the students and parents of the Providence School District."
"Public schools cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints regarding the use of school facilities," stated Staver. "Child Evangelism Fellowship gives children a biblically based education that includes moral and character development. Good News Clubs should be in every public elementary school."
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