Hardin FCA | Cases | First Liberty
Faith is Under Fire in Our Military Help Fight Back

Case History

Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a popular organization that seeks to “engage, equip and empower” coaches and athletes to “unite, inspire and change the world” through their Christian faith. There are nearly 20,000 FCA “huddles” around the world, many meeting in public high schools.

In Hardin County, Kentucky, high school teacher Tonya Vowels is the faculty advisor for FCA, and her two kids participate in the group. But in the fall of 2016, the school officials told faculty and staff that students in religious or political groups could not meet during the school day even though other student clubs meet at that time. Since then, North Hardin High School has prevented students in FCA from meeting at club time between second and third period when other student clubs are meeting and have further restricted FCA students’ access to school facilities by prohibiting student members from using facilities to promote FCA meetings and events.

Remarkably, these policies were adopted by the Hardin County School District in response to the advice of Atheists of America, making it clear that school officials have singled out FCA simply because of its religious affiliation.

What this Case is About

School officials in Hardin County are acting like they are above federal law, which requires that they treat students who are members of FCA equally. In fact, according to the federal Equal Access Act, passed by Congress in 1984, religious clubs must be afforded the same recognition, access and rights as other noncurricular clubs. Consequently, Hardin County School District’s policy, practice, and custom of prohibiting religious groups from meeting when non-religious groups meet and preventing it from announcing meetings over the public address system, using bulletin boards, or using other school property or venues is unlawful.

Banning religious clubs and students from meeting when other clubs meet is nothing more than discrimination – and unconstitutional.

First Liberty Institute sent a letter to school officials explaining that their policies are overreaching and deprive students and teachers of their First Amendment rights to religious expression and assembly. The Supreme Court has clearly established “the Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state.” The singling out of students involved with FCA is exactly the kind of hostility toward religion that the law prevents.

Reverse Course

Just days after First Liberty contacted school officials, leaders of the FCA group were informed they could begin meeting again just like any secular club.  They were also promised access to building facilities.

“We appreciate that Hardin County school officials recognize the problems with their policies and are taking quick action to protect the religious liberty of both employees and the FCA,” said Keisha Russell, Associate Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “First Liberty Institute attorneys are continuing to monitor the situation and are willing to work with the District as it develops policies that will protect the religious freedoms of students and employees in the future.”

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: 11.2.18
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Cell: 972-941-4453

Hardin County (KY) School District Pledges to Reverse Policies that Discriminated Against Religious Students, Teachers

Hardin County, KY—After receiving a letter from First Liberty Institute on behalf of the North Hardin High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes (“FCA”), school district officials met yesterday with North Hardin High School faculty, including FCA advisor and First Liberty client Tonya Vowels, pledging to reverse policies that discriminated against FCA and religious employees.  Officials told Vowels and other faculty:

  • FCA will be allowed to meet during club times just like any secular club.
  • FCA will have access to bulletin boards, announcements (PA system) and any other building facilities exactly the same as any other club.
  • Employees may wear religious jewelry.
  • Employees may have religious items in their “personal space.”

“We appreciate that Hardin County school officials recognize the problems with their policies and are taking quick action to protect the religious liberty of both employees and the FCA,” said Keisha Russell, Associate Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “First Liberty Institute attorneys are continuing to monitor the situation and are willing to work with the District as it develops policies that will protect the religious freedoms of students and employees in the future.”

###

About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

To download this press release, please click here.


News Release – 10.26.18

Social Facebook Social Instagram Social Twitter Social Youtube Social Linkedin Social Soundcloud

Terms of UsePrivacy PolicySitemap • © 2019 Liberty Institute® is a trademark of First Liberty Institute