JMHACLJ at AOL.COM
JMHACLJ at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 24 01:19:39 PST 1999
In a message dated 03/23/1999 11:38:40 PM Eastern Standard Time,
dsg at PRCHFE.ORG writes:
What's at issue here? And who's likely to win the impending legal battle?
The Equal Access Act (passed by Congress in 1984) ensures the rights of
students to meet for religious reasons on school grounds. If a school
allows any group to meet for "noncurricular" activities, then groups that
meet for religious reasons cannot be denied the same privileges. As well,
Section 4071 provides that such groups must meet "during noninstructional
time." So far, so good, it seems, for the Face It Lunch Clubs.>>
And, of course, the Ceniceros case out of the Ninth Circuit lends support to
<< However, things get stickier when it comes to sponsoring and leading such
groups. The Equal Access Act holds that noncurricular clubs must meet
certain requirements. Among those pertinent to the situation: club
meetings must be "voluntary and student initiated"; there must be "no
sponsorship of the meeting by the school, the government, or its agents or
employees"; and finally, "nonschool persons may not direct, conduct,
control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.">>
Definitional problems that need not be determinative of the outcome; if they
are, then that is an indicia, to this observer, of the patent philosophical
bent of the jurists involved.
What if the clubs assert rights beyond those granted in the EAA? What if the
UMKC student group had a youth pastor that regularly attended at the request
of students and provided spiritual leadership and guidance? What if all clubs
are permitted outside visitors and attenders and participants and guides?
<< Whether or not school officials "sponsor" club meetings through direct or
indirect encouragement may be difficult to pin down in this case, though it
certain seems that board members and principals are pleased to host the
Face It Lunch Clubs. However, Mr. Farmer is indeed a "nonschool person,"
and his organizing and directing of various meetings provides potent
ammunition for the ACLU.>>
This proposes a conflict between EAA and the governing constitutional
principles. Of course, if EAA prohibits such outside participation and the
Constitution permits it, we know that the attempt to exclude Mr. Farmer under
an EAA construct should fail.
<< Regardless of local friendliness toward the lunch clubs, the fact point
toward the ACLU's eventual success if this dispute does make its way
through the courts. The Face It Lunch Clubs clearly have the right to
meet, but they will likely have to face a future without the direct
leadership of Mr. Farmer. But perhaps he can continue to spring for the
At the ACLJ, we love the EAA. For ten years, I have been personally committed
to using EAA to extend students' rights as far as possible. The act has its
limits and defects, however, and I would love to see these defects corrected.
One of the most significant defects is the special burdens imposed only on
religious clubs. The Chess Club may have active sponsor participation in the
club; the Jewish Chess Club can have only a monitor. The Scuba Club sponsor
is likely a scuba enthusiast too. The sponsor of the Methodist Scuba Club had
best keep quiet about her religious affiliations.
The single most important aspect of EAA, in my opinion, is that it drew down,
for its purposes, the age at which government would recognize the judgmental
maturity of students in public institutions.
More information about the Religionlaw