Defending Religious Liberties in California Schools

DAVID FRENCH, ACLJ

It’s stunning that in the roughly quarter-century since the Supreme Court began deciding a series of cases that guaranteed Christian groups equal access to schools that some public school districts – indeed some entire states – simply haven’t gotten the message.

Yesterday, after months of attempted persuasion, the ACLJ filed suit on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship of West Orange County (California) against the Buena Park School District after the School District determined it would charge Child Evangelism Fellowship more than $4,000.00 for after-school access when it grants the same access to groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for free.

Religious censors are nothing if not inventive, and the justification for this blatant discrimination was a discriminatory California law requiring schools to charge outside groups for access to schools for “religious services.” Aside from the fact that Child Evangelism Fellowship isn’t holding “religious services,” this law represents the latest effort at treating religious speech as different in kind – with inferior constitutional protections – than other forms of speech.

Defending hard-won religious freedoms requires constant vigilance. Religious censors still exist and even decades of court precedent haven’t persuaded them to stand down. Their goal remains the same – to shove religious expression to the margins of public life.

We remain hopeful that the Buena Park School District is not motivated by censorship but rather by a misunderstanding and misapplication of governing law. Regardless, we intend to protect religious expression from such blatant viewpoint discrimination.


David French is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ. A Kentucky native, David is a 1994 graduate (cum laude) of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a 1991 graduate (summa cum laude, valedictorian) of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. David has been a commercial litigation partner for a large law firm, taught at Cornell Law School, served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and currently serves as a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. He is the author of multiple books, including A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School and the upcoming Home and Away: The Story of Family in a Time of War.


Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.