A federal appeals court has ruled that the Minneapolis school district likely engaged in discrimination when it barred a religious club for elementary students from an after-school program.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled unanimously in favor of the Minnesota chapter of a Warrenton, Mo.-based Christian organization that sponsors after-school Good News Clubs. The organization delivers Bible lessons at public schools across the country.
In the 2008-09 school year, the club was told it would be removed from the after-school program beginning the next school year.
The Child Evangelism Fellowship of Minnesota sued the Minneapolis district under the First and 14th Amendments, alleging that the removal violated its free-speech and equal-protection rights. A federal district court denied a preliminary injunction that would have restored the club’s access, holding that groups participating in the after-school program were subject to the restrictions of the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion.
The 8th Circuit panel, in its Aug. 29 decision in Child Evangelism Fellowship of Minnesota v. Minneapolis Special School District No. 1, suggested that it was an easy matter to reverse the district court based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision and an earlier 8th Circuit precedent with similar facts.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2012 edition of Education Week as Appeals Court Backs Student Religious Club