Bible Clubs

What about student Bible clubs? Should they be allowed to meet on school property? Or does their obviously religious purpose make them intolerable? Northville High School in Michigan told Connect for Christ, a student Bible club, that it could no longer meet during seminar period at school, but continued to permit other noncurricular clubs to meet. The principal said that because the Bible club was "religion-based" it could meet before or after school, but not during.

Two of the club's students, Nicollete Pearce, a senior, and her brother Matthew, a ninth grader, brought a federal lawsuit for religious discrimination, which resulted in a consent decree authorizing the club to resume meetings. The school, according to the order, must give the club the same access to school facilities as other noncurricular clubs at the school. The decree also required the school to train teachers and administrators on the Federal Equal Access Act (see below) and not to single out members of the Bible club for selective enforcement of school policies. While such discriminatory school policies are probably casually dismissed by some as inconsequential, one need only look at what happened to attendance when the ban was in effect to understand the real impact such discrimination can have on the lives of Christian students. In the initial aftermath of the ban, the club's membership decreased roughly ninety percent, but following the court order, attendance doubled.

There are scores of such Bible club stories, but it's hard to top one out of Panama City, Florida. There, a school principal, on her own initiative, unilaterally changed the name of a student Bible club from "Fellowship of Christian Students" to "Fellowship of Concerned Students," in deference to the gods of political correctness. She also prohibited the club from advertising. In effect, she was saying the school would hold its nose and permit the club to exist on the condition that it dilute its name to disguise its Christian nature.

Yet some values aren't discouraged in public schools. In fact, schools often go out of their way to concoct justifications for their discriminatory treatment in favor of some value-based organizations and against Christian groups. One such arbitrary and phony excuse is that the subjects and activities of the non-Christian clubs correspond to the school's curriculum. School officials at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado, for instance, prohibited a group of students from forming a Bible club at the school because it was limiting recognition of student organizations to those that "directly relate to the regular curriculum and the educational goals of the school district." But it allowed other groups to form, including the Gay/Straight Alliance Club, the Multicultural Club, Peace Jam, and Amnesty International. In pressing for recognition, the Christian group maintained that its club would directly relate to the school's curriculum as an extension of courses relating to the Bible in history, literature, and philosophy. School administrators rejected the students' perfectly reasonable argument, betraying the school's apparent opinion that partisan political groups and homosexual organizations have more to do with real education than does the sourcebook of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which proves the school is intellectually bankrupt as well as discriminatory against Christians.

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