In The School

NEW YORK HIGH SCHOOL FAITH-BASED CLUB HAS HAPPY ENDING AS SCHOOL OFFICIALS AGAIN REVERSE UNCONSTITUIONAL BAN

Attorneys Applaud Student’s Bold Stand for Freedom Responsible for Ward Melville High School Concession and Approval of Students United in Faith as Official Campus Club


EAST SETAUKET, NY, October 10, 2014Today, attorneys from Liberty Institute and its volunteer attorneys at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery convinced school officials at Ward Melville High School for a second time in less than a year to end its unlawful practice of keeping student religious clubs off campus. Only days after attorneys challenged school officials wrongful rejection in a demand letter, school officials averted a federal lawsuit by following the laws that have been on the books since 1984 that guarantee the right of student religious groups – like Students United in Faith (SUIF) – to meet on campus.

“We are hoping that the school doesn’t make this an annual tradition of violating the Equal Access Act,” commented Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s Director of Strategic Litigation. “Congress can pass laws and the courts can issue opinions, but if great Americans like John Raney and Jeremy Johnson don’t take a bold stand for freedom, we will all lose our liberty.”  

Todd Harrison, partner at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery and volunteer attorney with Liberty Institute, served as lead counsel and led the effort in obtaining a successful resolution of this matter. 

“I am very happy that the decision has been reversed,” said John Raney, Ward Melville student leader and founder of SUIF. “The publicity surrounding my school’s decision to deny our club access to campus has had the happy consequence of helping students hear about our club who otherwise would not have heard and they have begun to support the club in even greater numbers.  I am thrilled that my fellow club members and I can resume doing good for our community.

In December of 2013, Ward Melville High School reversed its decision to ban the faith-based club after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Institute and law firm McDermott Will & Emery outlining the illegality of its decision.  However, once again this year, as SUIF came up for renewal, Ward Melville officials denied SUIF’s request to be recognized as a club on campus. 

To view an online copy of the school district’s response letter and the original demand letter to school officials, follow this link to the bottom of the press release page: https://libertyinstitute.org/suif


 

NEW YORK HIGH SCHOOL IS REPEAT OFFENDER OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST STUDENTS' RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Less than a year after Ward Melville High School reversed its denial of a student religious club in the face of legal action, it does it again.


EAST SETAUKET, NY, October 6, 2014In what has become a local flashpoint in the debate over religious observance inside of U.S. schools, officials at Ward Melville High School were put on notice today about the consequences of wrongfully denying students’ request to continue the faith-based club, Students United in Faith (SUIF). 

Last year, Ward Melville High School reversed its decision to ban the faith-based club after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Institute and law firm McDermott Will & Emery outlining the illegality of its decision.  However, once again this year, as SUIF came up for renewal, Ward Melville officials denied its request to be recognized as a club on campus.

To avoid further legal action, the letter states that by October 9, 2014, Ward Melville High School officials and its School Board members must reconsider their position and grant student leader John Raney’s request to formally register SUIF.  Follow this link to view a copy of the demand letter online:  https://www.libertyinstitute.org/suif#demandletter

“This is not a complicated issue,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Litigation Director.  “Simply put, public schools cannot discriminate against religious clubs and must treat them the same as other student clubs on campus.”  To see a list of student clubs currently allowed on campus, follow this link: https://www.libertyinstitute.org/suif#clubschedule 

Todd Harrison, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and lead attorney for the students stated, “The decision to reject SUIF’s request to continue as a club on campus is in clear and direct violation of the Equal Access Act of 1984, Supreme Court precedent, and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  There is simply no legal basis for the School’s decision in this case.”  

“I was shocked when I heard that the school officials denied SUIF again, but our son said he is ready to stand for religious liberty and we back him 100%,” said Trudy Fischer, another parent of a student leader of SUIF. 

Lincoln Johnson, one of the parents of a student member of SUIF, said, “I thought the school would easily renew SUIF after the club welcomed several students to each meeting and held successful food drives on behalf of four different food pantries last semester.” 


Case Files

Demand Letter - Link

Ward Melville High School Co-Curricular Clubs 2014/15 Schedule - Link

Todd Starnes' editorial on Foxnews.com - Link 

Photo - Link

Response Letter - Link

 

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