Providence Public Schools and Superintendent Dr. Javier Montanez will be facing off against the religious freedom watchdog Liberty Counsel in a federal court for denying a meeting room for a Good News Club, sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Good News Clubs typically meet once per week, immediately after school, and are led by trained and vetted local community volunteers. The clubs encourage learning, spiritual growth, and service to others, as well as social, emotional, character, and leadership development. Good News Clubs do not charge any fee, and they welcome children with written permission from parents.
"The Providence, Rhode Island school district allows the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, Girls on the Run … free access to the facilities for afterschool programs, but nothing for the Good News Clubs because of their Christian nature," says attorney Mat Staver, who notes that there is no legal support for denying a meeting place to a club that talks about the Bible.
He says he will be arguing the case with the wind at his back and precedent in his pocket.
"There is a Supreme Court decision from June 11, 2001 involving the Good News Clubs that indicates very clearly that you cannot discriminate against their Christian viewpoint," Staver references.
Meanwhile, the school district has been ignoring or adding extra hoops for the club to jump through for nearly two years in hopes of waiting or pricing the Christian organization out of the case.
"They have another thing coming if they think they can just ignore or stonewall or deny access," Staver asserts.
"We've never lost a case involving Good News Clubs," he adds. "The school district will not win this case."
There are currently more than 4,800 Good News Clubs in public elementary and middle schools across the United States, including in other Rhode Island school districts.
Liberty Counsel's lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions against the school district's enforcement of the unconstitutional policies that prohibit the Good News Clubs to meet on equal terms as secular clubs.