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.
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 polices 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.
For Immediate Release: October 26, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes Prevented from Meeting, Promoting
Events Like Other Student Groups at School
Elizabethtown, Kentucky—First Liberty Institute this week sent a letter to the
Hardin County (KY) School District demanding that it adopt policies protecting the civil
rights of its Fellowship of Christian Athletes (“FCA”) student group. The letter also
requests that the school to reverse policies depriving students and teachers of their
rights to religious expression.
“The singling out of students involved with FCA is exactly the kind of hostility toward
religion that the law prevents,” said Roger Byron, Senior Counsel for First Liberty
Institute. “Hardin County school officials are acting like they are above federal law. They
must treat students who are members of FCA equally.”
School officials prohibit faculty and staff in FCA from meeting during non-instructional
time even though other student clubs meet at the same time. Furthermore, the letter
explains, school policy prohibits members of the FCA from announcing meetings
through the public announcement system or from having bulletin boards displaying
FCA’s activities because of the club’s religious viewpoint like other student clubs can.
In its letter to school officials, First Liberty explains that the Equal Access Act, passed by
Congress in 1984, prohibits schools from denying access to school facilities for religious
groups if secular groups are allowed to meet. It adds that the District’s policies
regarding teacher social media posts and wearing “religious logos” violate teachers’
rights. The letter adds that First Liberty Institute attorneys are willing to work with the
District to develop policies that will protect the religious freedoms of students and
teachers while maintaining the neutrality required under the Establishment Clause.
“Banning religious clubs and students from meeting when other clubs meet is nothing
more than discrimination,” says Byron. “We hope this school district ends its clearly
unlawful behavior and protects the religious liberty of everyone on campus.”
You can read the demand letter, here.
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 email@example.com or by calling 972-941-4453.
To download this press release, please click here.