Good News Club sues San Diego City Schools
By staff reporter

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Child Evangelism Fellowship, sponsor of the Good News Clubs, a faith-based, after-school clubs for elementary school children, has filed a federal lawsuit against San Diego City Schools, arguing its rental fee policy discriminates against religious groups.

Mathew Staver, president and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, said his client, CEF, was unfairly being singled out for fees since similar secular clubs do not have to pay the fee. Such action, he said, is unconstitutional.

In July 1999, Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greater San Diego requested to use district facilities to hold a Good News Club after school hours. According to District Procedure 9205, “community organizations whose primary purpose is service to district youth or the general welfare of the community,” including Boy Scouts, are entitled to use district facilities without charge. However, when CEF applied for use of school facilities, District officials insisted that CEF pay “fair rental value” because, the district claimed, CEF is a “church conducting religious services.”

From 1999 to the present, CEF has been charged fees to use the school facilities when other similar secular groups have not. Even after the fellowship provided district officials with U.S. Supreme Court cases which stated that Good News Clubs must be provided access to school facilities on the same terms and conditions as groups such as Boy Scouts, district officials refused to grant a fee waiver to the Good News Club.

The district maintains that is it is required to charge the Good News Club a fee under California law because the Good News Club is a religious organization.

Liberty Counsel has successfully represented similar Child Evangelism Fellowship cases in California and across the country.

“Imposing a financial barrier based on the religious viewpoint of groups seeking access to public property violates the First Amendment,” Staver said. “A policy that excludes persons or groups from using school facilities or that imposes discriminatory fees, solely because of the group’s religious viewpoint, is unconstitutional. Every public elementary school in the country ought to have a Good News Club. Who wouldn’t want a club on campus that presents a positive message of hope and that teaches sound character and morals?”

Published, July 2005

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