(Daily Caller) – A Rhode Island school district is the subject of a lawsuit after allegedly preventing Christian clubs from operating on its school campuses while allowing secular clubs.
Providence Public School District (PPSD) allegedly blocked Child Evangelical Fellowship (CEF) from becoming a recognized after-school club at any of its locations for the past two years, according to the lawsuit filed Friday by Liberty Counsel, a litigation and policy nonprofit. PPSD, as well as Superintendent Dr. Javier Montanez, are listed as defendants in the 154-page lawsuit, which alleges unconstitutional discrimination based on CEF’s religious beliefs.
“For nearly two years, the Providence Public School District has blocked CEF Rhode Island from hosting its elementary school Good News Clubs on district school facilities,” the lawsuit read. “The District’s policies of unequal access and hostility to CEF Rhode Island’s religious message violate the Constitution and have denied the District’s elementary school students access to free, positive, and character-building Good News Clubs that enrich countless students’ lives in other Rhode Island school districts and throughout the country.”
The district allegedly approved CEF’s application for use of school property for the 2019-2020 school year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club had to cancel most of its planned activities for the year, according to the lawsuit. In August 2021, CEF attempted to apply again for permission to hold the club on school property, but was allegedly met with hostility and concerns about the organization’s ability to “accommodate non-Christians.”
Over the next year, CEF was continually asked to provide club lessons, and materials and at one point asked to give “data of 20 students that participated in the program,” according to the lawsuit. The district continued to ask for more time to review the application but for the past two year has never approved or denied the request.
“In the current, Spring 2023 semester, while the District continues to deny access to Good News Clubs, the District is allowing GOTR to conduct its after-school program at several District elementary schools,” the lawsuit read.
Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs at Liberty Counsel Roger Gannam told the Daily Caller News Foundation that there was “nothing obvious” that would explain the school district’s decision to deny the club after approving it in the past.
“It’s really hard to say because the school district officials have given us no explanation for the long delays to our applications,” Gannam said. “Other organizations like Girls on the Run, and Boys and Girls Clubs that also teach moral and character development have been allowed since COVID but for whatever reason, they are stringing out the response to the Good News Clubs, and it effectively denied them because it’s been two years.”
Montanez and PPSD did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.