Worthy Christian News » Christian » ACLJ Applauds Supreme Court Decision Protecting Religious Organizations
June 12, 2001
(Washington, DC) â€“ The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, said today a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a federal appeals court that prevented a New York Christian youth group from using a public school after-hours is â€œan important victory for the First Amendment and sends a powerful message that religious organizations must receive equal treatment.â€
"The Supreme Court decision represents an important victory for the First Amendment and sends a powerful message that religious organizations must receive equal treatment,â€ said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. â€œThe decision reaffirms what the Court did in 1993 in the Lambâ€™s Chapel case â€“ protecting the First Amendment rights of religious organizations by assuring equal treatment in public forums. The Courtâ€™s decision today clearly shows there is no constitutional crisis created when a religious organization receives the same treatment afforded to other organizations. While the debate over church-state issues will continue, the Supreme Court struck a major victory for religious organizations which are entitled to receive fair and equal treatment.â€
By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court today said an appeals court was wrong when it said a school district in New York state was correct in prohibiting a Christian youth group from using a public school after-hours â€“ although school officials permitted other community groups to use the facility.
The ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief in November 2000 with the Supreme Court in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School on behalf of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based ministry. It was a 1993 decision in the Lambâ€™s Chapel case that the Supreme Court agreed that a school district in New York was wrong when it refused to allow a church to use its facilities after-hours to show a religious film â€“ a film produced by Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
Sekulow, who successfully argued the Lambâ€™s Chapel case before the Supreme Court, said the Good News Club case presented the Court with an opportunity to re-affirm the protections afforded by the Lambâ€™s Chapel case.
In the Good News Club case, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit which upheld a 1996 decision by Milford, New York to prohibit the Good News Club, a community-based Christian youth group, from using a school facility after hours â€“ although school officials permitted other community groups to use the facility. In 1997, the Good News Club sued the school district. A federal district judge and the federal appeals court upheld the school districtâ€™s decision to prohibit the Christian group from using the facilities and threw out the Good News Clubâ€™s lawsuit.
In the brief filed by the ACLJ in the Good News Club case, the argument focused heavily on the 1993 ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the Lambâ€™s Chapel case. The brief asserted that the First Amendment requires â€“ rather than forbids â€“ a school district to provide the same access to religious organizations as it does to other community groups.