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On The Front Lines

Another One for Religious Freedom--Bible Study Group Allowed to Meet!

Student-Led Bible Study Group in Washington State Fights for, Achieves Equal Access to School Facilities

SHORELINE, Wash. -- A student-led Bible study group at Shorecrest High School is now able to enjoy the same privileges as other student-initiated groups following intervention by attorneys with The Rutherford Institute.

In September 2003, Sarah Marie Pence, a member of a student-led Bible study group at Shorecrest High School, contacted The Rutherford Institute about the group's unsuccessful efforts to gain equal access to the school's bulletin boards, public address system, yearbook and student group funding. The Bible study group had expressed a desire to the school's activities coordinator to become an officially recognized ASB (associated student body) club. However, school officials expressed resistance to changing the club's status, allegedly due to concerns about violating the "separation of church and state."

While school officials refused ASB club status and its benefits to the Bible study group, they extended it to other non-curricular student groups, including the Key Club, Dance Team, Chess Team, Highland Dancers, Swing Club and "Connecting Muslims and Non-Muslims."

After Institute attorneys advised the Shoreline School District that the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act require it to extend to the Bible study group the same privileges that other non-curricular student-initiated groups enjoy, the district agreed to recognize that obligation.

The Shoreline (Wash.) School District instructed the school's coordinator of activities to abandon its posture of noninclusion with regards to the group and afford them the same privileges that other non-curricular student-initiated groups enjoy. The Bible club will now receive all of the benefits afforded to other non-curricular student organizations, including access to the school's bulletin boards, public address system, yearbook and student group funding.

"While The Rutherford Institute is glad that Shoreline School District has recognized its obligation to provide equal treatment to religious students, we continue to fight this battle over and over again with misguided school districts across the country," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "Federal law and the Constitution are clear -- voluntary religious speech must be given a place in the schoolhouse."

The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.


Press Contact

Nisha N. Mohammed
Ph: (434) 978-3888, ext. 604; Pager: 800-946-4646, Pin #: 1478257
Email: Nisha N. Mohammed

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