- March 26 - Public schools have no legal obligation to help an
evangelical Christian group promote itself to young school children,
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has advised
a federal appeals court.
United and allied groups filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief
March 25 arguing that a New Jersey public school does not have
to allow the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) to post signs
in schools, participate in a "back-to-school night"
and require teachers to distribute its promotional fliers in
argues that if these activities are allowed, young children
could easily assume that CEF is a school project that is backed
by teachers and administrators.
they see their teachers give them CEF flyers, when they see
the flyers posted on the walls of their school hallways, and
when they see CEF representatives at school-sponsored 'Back-to-School
Nights,' elementary school children will reasonably conclude
that their school endorses CEFs religious message,"
asserts the brief. "In addition, the use of teachers and
school facilities to invite young children to attend Club meetings
will tend to place coercive pressure on the children to submit
to evangelical indoctrination."
Supreme Court in 2001 upheld the right of CEF and other community
groups to use public schools for religious and other types of
meetings at the end of the school day. But AU and the other
organizations argue that schools are not constitutionally required
to promote these organizations to students.
is asking public schools to help it find recruits for its fundamentalist
indoctrination program," said Barry W. Lynn, executive
director of Americans United. "Public schools have no obligation
to help this or any other religious group win new converts."
that given CEF's aggressive proselytism -- its members believe
that children as young as 5 can be converted to fundamentalism
-- public schools have good reason for keep the group at arm's
children shouldn't be bombarded with ads from hard-sell evangelistic
groups in public schools," said Lynn. "Parents don't
want that, and the Constitution does not allow it."
Lynn, "Groups like CEF may have the right to rent public
schools after hours, but that doesn't mean public schools must
help them undertake their missionary activities."
Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Stafford Township School District,
is pending before the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Joining
AU on the brief are the Anti-Defamation League, People For the
American Way Foundation, the New Jersey Education Association
and the Stafford Township Education Association.
was written by Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United's litigation
United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington,
D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about
the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious