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A New York school district will permit students to start Gay Pride clubs but they won’t allow students to start Christian clubs.
First Liberty Institute attorney Keisha Russell appeared on The Todd Starnes Radio Show to discuss the plight of a 14-year-old girl who was barred from starting a Christian club “to share the hope of Jesus” at Roy C. Ketcham High School.
Last summer Daniela Barca reached out to school leaders inquiring about forming a club where Christian students could gather to pray, participate in food drives and charities like Operation Christmas Child.
“She did everything she was supposed to do,” Russell said on the program. “But she ran into lots of opposition.”
Weeks went by without any communication from the school. Then, school leaders said they lost her application. Several weeks later, they found the application and it was eventually rejected.
“I am a Christian,” Daniela wrote in an appeal to school leaders. “But sometimes it seems like I’m the only one. I want to start this club for other students like me so we can support each other in our beliefs. The school district celebrates diversity and the right to express who you are. All I want is to be allowed to express who I am. Everyone deserves as much.
According to First Liberty Institute, the high school has a number of secular clubs, from a mime society to a Gay-Straight Alliance.
“If the school is going to allow non-curricular clubs, they have to allow religious clubs,” Russell said, citing the Equal Access Act of 1984.
Beyond that, school officials told Danelia that her club was too religious and too exclusive.
In a letter to Danelia’s father, assistant superintendent Daren Lolkema said they would be willing to reconsider the ban if they made the club more inclusive.
“A more specific example of a club we could consider would be one where the group discussed religions impact on culture and society,” Lolkema wrote. “A theme like this is more generic, but we would have to advise that the club remain completely unbiased to any and all religions that could be discussed, you couldn’t limit it to the Christian faith.”
First Liberty Institute said that email is evidence of a significant violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“The law says that school officials can’t control what kind of dialogue is going to be discussed in the club, especially trying to censor religious speech,” Russell said.
First Liberty is demanding the school approve Daniela’s Christian club – or else they might sue the district. Click here to read the entire complaint.