Secondary school student religious clubs must be permitted to meet, have equal access to the school rooms and school media to announce their meetings. Each federally funded school must permit religious club meetings if other non-curricular clubs meet during non-instructional time. This is due to the Equal Access Act of 1984. This Act is based on the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States.
Although a school has the right to decline all non-curriculum clubs, they may not avoid the law by declaring all clubs curriculum-related. If a school allows one club to meet after instructional hours, they must allow all clubs to meet unless they show imminent danger to the school and school body. The teachers, on the other hand, may not actively participate in religious club activities. A “non-school” adult may not control or regularly attend club meetings. The religious club meetings may only be conducted by students.
The Act’s constitutionality has been upheld by numerous Supreme Court cases. The Supreme court has rejected claims that the Act violates the Establishment Clause. The Unites States Constitution states under the First Amendment that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religioun, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Constitution of the United States)
This Amendment insures that all organizations have equal access to federally funded public school buildings and they may have peaceable assemblies. It also allows freedom of speech and press. There are many cases proving the validity of the First Amendment.
The Equal Access Act of 1984 set forth criteria for students to utilize school facilities unless outlined differently by the School Board. In order to hold a peaceable assembly on school premises, the students’ meetings must follow the following criteria:
1. The meetings must be voluntary and student initiated.
2. There is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school or government employees or agents of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in a non-participatory capacity.
3. The meeting does not materially and substantially interfer with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.
4. Non-school persons may not direct, conduct, control or regularly attend activities of student groups (Equal Access Ace, 20 U.S.A. SS 4071 and 4072)
To hold religious club meetings on school property requires several other criteria. The school may not:
….influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity.
….require any person to participate in prayer or other religious activity.
….expend public funds beyond the incidental cost of providing the space for student-initiated meetings.
….compel any school agent or employee to attend a school meeting if the content of speech at the meeting is contrary to the beliefs of the agent or employee.
….Sanction meetings that are otherwise unlawful.
….Limit the rights of groups of students which are not of a specified numerical size.
….Abridge the constitutional rights of any persons (Equal Access Ace, 20 U>S>A> SS 4071 and 4072)
The passing of this Act in 1984 helped schools to pass the policies needed to ensure that all students’ rights were equally addressed. They had a constitutional and statute basis to develop their policies. These policies need to be adhered by all public schools. Parochial and private schools are exempt from the laws because they do not receive federal funding. At any time thy begin receiving Federal money, they must adhere to the same laws as the public school systems.
The United States Constitution