In The School

Eight Days to a Victory

How Approval Was Won for Liz Loverde and the "Dare to Believe" Christian Club

 

School district follows the law and authorizes Liberty Institute client Liz Loverde's faith-based, extracurricular club

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In November of 2014, Liberty Institute was notified that Wantagh Union Free School District officials in Long Island, New York, voted to recognize the “Dare to Believe” Christian club—affording it the same recognition and benefits as Wantagh High School’s 30 other approved extracurricular clubs—for the 2014-15 school year. Liberty Institute and our client Liz Loverde give thanks that the school district was convinced to follow the law and that we were able to see victory in eight days.

“We are glad the school district has announced that it is doing the right thing by recognizing Liz Loverde’s club, ‘Dare to Believe,’” Jeremy Dys, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel said at the time. “It took a lot of courage for a high school girl to come forward [after] her principal said Christian clubs are illegal. It is always a scary position for students to take a stand against government school authorities who hold significant power over their everyday lives. We look forward to Wantagh High School respecting Liz’s religious liberty at school.”


She Didn't Take "No" for an Answer


Liberty Insitute Deputy Chief Counsel of Litigation Hiram Sasser and Liz Loverde appear on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson


When Liz presented her four-page proposal to start her “Dare to Believe” Christian club to her high school principal, she was told “No” because it was a Christian club. But that didn’t stop her. To Liz, this was a serious matter, and in her proposal she shared her objective to reach out to her community by visiting nursing homes and holding toy and food drives.

Liz also wrote about her plan to share with her fellow teenagers that “love is louder than depression, self-harm, pressure, bullying, school, home life, addiction”—and other problems or struggles in their lives. Liz pointed to the impact that biblical principles made in her life and what she knew they could do for others. Liz explained:

“Life appeared to me as something not worth having or living. Maybe, right now, teenagers are feeling the same way I did, and saying that life has nothing for them and that no one would care if they lived or died. Through ‘Dare to Believe’ Christian Club I want students to know that while they’re going through these tough times (depression, parents divorce, self-harm, suicide, anxiety, bullying, etc.), Jesus Christ offers them another view of life; a life that is truly beautiful.”

Liz was hopeful that her Christian club would receive the full recognition and benefits afforded to other approved extracurricular clubs at Wantagh High School, including Variation Club, a “gay-straight-everyone alliance,” W.A.R.R. (Wantagh Animal Rights and Recycling), and Rube Goldberg. All of the high school’s more than 30 extracurricular clubs were allowed to make announcements and hang posters to advertise at the school.

But when the principal denied her request, this courageous high school student didn’t back down. Liz had seen a local television news report about a similar incident of religious discrimination involving Liberty Institute client John Raney—and his Students United in Faith club in nearby East Setauket, New York—and she knew we could help.

It Only Took Eight Days to Achieve Victory

Here’s how it happened:

  • DAY 1:  On behalf of Liz Loverde, Liberty Institute delivered a demand letter to the high school principal and two other Wantagh Union Free School District officials, demanding they reconsider their denial of Liz’s proposal to start her “Dare to Believe” Christian club at Wantagh High School in Long Island, New York. We also demanded the school district approve Liz’s proposal, and grant official recognition to her club, Dare to Believe, in one week’s time. Along with Jeremy Dys, Liz also spoke at a press conference on Monday afternoon, where she testified: “Wantagh High School has over 30 clubs, and they wouldn’t recognize mine because it was faith based.” 
  • DAY 2:  Along with Hiram Sasser, Liz was interviewed on Fox News’ The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. “We’re going to hold the school’s feet to the fire,” Sasser said.  “And [if they don’t say yes to Liz’s club,] they’re going to have to go to the courthouse, and they’re going to have to have the law applied to them.”
  • DAY 3:  Liberty Institute’s #DaretoBelieve campaign quickly spread the word about Liz Loverde. The campgain encouraged everyone to sign the #DaretoBelieve Petition, thus sending a message to the U.S. Department of Education—demanding they STOP ignoring the enforcement of religious freedom protections, as afforded to public school students in The Equal Access Act of 1984.
  • DAY 4:  At a Wantagh Union Free School District meeting, school officials discussed whether or not they would approve the Christian club, Dare to Believe, for the 2014-15 school year.
  • DAY 5:  Liberty Institute shared more detailed information about Liz’s story—including our demand letter sent to school officials and a synopsis of The Equal Access Act—with friends and supporters in our online Liberty Watch newsletter. We continued to ask for signatures for the #DaretoBelieve petition, as well as for prayer and financial support to help fight this battle for religious liberty in our nation’s schools.
  • DAY 6:  Liberty Institute client John Raney and his fellow members in the Students United in Faith Club at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York, sent their encouragement to Liz—and the students who want to form the Dare to Believe club—via a special video message.
  • DAY 7:  The #DaretoBelieve campaign was well on its way to reaching approximately 35,000 people via Twitter, seeing more than 51,000 impressions on Facebook, as well as garnering nearly 7,000 unique viewers on LibertyInstitute.org. We also saw more than one hundred friends—including fellow high school students—show their grassroots support for Liz and her Christian club by sharing images of their handmade #DaretoBelieve posters on Instagram.
  • DAY 8:  Liberty Institute was notified that the school district did the right thing and recognized the Dare to Believe club for the 2014-15 school year.  We applaud the district for following the law!

More Students Like Liz Need Help

We’ll never know victory—and how close it really is in many cases of religious liberty discrimination and violation—unless we stand up for our religious liberties in our nation’s schools.

When students—and teachers—know their rights in the classroom, they are empowered to boldly stand up for religious freedom and exercise their rights.  They’re equipped to stand up to the opposition and make a difference in their schools and in society at large as they freely live out the principles they believe. If you are a student or teacher, read or download our free Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers here.

Thank you for continuing to stand with Liberty Institute and courageous students like Liz through your financial support and prayers. Together, may we achieve many more victories for religious liberty for students—and all Americans—in the days ahead!

 

 

#DaretoBelieve!

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