School Says ‘NO’ to Student’s Prayer Club, But Allows Many Other Clubs

April 12, 2024
Prayer Club Banned | First Liberty Insider

by Jorge Gomez • 3 min read

First Liberty is representing Laura, a student at Creekside Elementary, just outside Seattle. She thinks prayer is important and asked to start a student-led interfaith prayer club at her school. But school officials rejected her request, even though it allows and even promotes many non-religious clubs.

Other student groups allowed to meet include the Creekside Choir, Creekside Marimba Club, Global Reading Challenge, Green Team, Pride Club, Safety Patrol, Chess Club, Geography Club, and Math Club.

Laura herself had an especially difficult experience as a religious student in 5th grade. She decided to start an interfaith prayer club because she has friends from many different faiths who feel marginalized. She wanted to make sure students like her could have a place after school where they feel safe and welcome.

Laura and her mother met with Principal Amy Allison twice in February. Both times, the principal denied the request to start the prayer club, claiming that all the funding for school clubs was allocated in October, so the club would not be allowed to meet.

A Pride club, however, was launched and promoted by teachers just a week before Laura and her mom met with the principal. Principal Allison said the only option for the prayer club was to pay for space like outside groups.

This week, First Liberty sent a letter urging officials at the Issaquah School District to allow Laura to start the club. We explain that the First Amendment protects elementary school students expressing their sincere religious beliefs through voluntary clubs. Simply put, refusing to allow a student-led prayer club is unconstitutional.

Creekside Elementary is not far from Bremerton High, where Coach Joe Kennedy was fired for praying on the football field after each game. First Liberty represented Coach Kennedy, who won his right to pray on the field in a 6-3 Supreme Court decision. The Court’s holding in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District set a major precedent protecting the First Amendment right of employees and students to express their faith in public schools.

The Supreme Court also made clear in Good News Club v. Milford Central School that schools must grant religious clubs the same access as any other non-curricular club.

“Denying the formation of a religious student club while allowing other clubs violates the Constitution,” said First Liberty attorney Kayla Toney. “School officials at Creekside Elementary are engaged in religious discrimination against an 11-year-old girl who simply wants to pray, feel support from other religious friends and do community service.”

A value statement at Creekside Elementary states they give “respect to all members and aspects of the community.” But apparently that doesn’t apply to a sweet little 5th grader who wants to start an interfaith prayer club with her friends.

That’s wrong and illegal. Rejecting a prayer club demonstrates clear hostility towards religion. If a school allows any student clubs, it cannot deny a religious student club. The school district should do what’s right, follow the law and approve Laura’s prayer group.

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