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Civil Rights   
Religious Clubs in School: Guidelines for School Districts
Secondary Schools
Posted: September 22, 2004



Introduction
Elementary Schools
Secondary Schools
Sample Scenarios

During school hours: A religious group may meet only if it otherwise complies with the Equal Access Act. That is to say, if the school allows non-curriculum related clubs (e.g., a service club), the school must allow religious clubs, but only if they are student-run, student-initiated clubs that meet during non-curriculum time. There may be no faculty or outside control over the group (beyond maintaining routine order and control).

After school hours: The circumstances under which a religious club or organization is permitted to meet in a school depends on whether it is a student-initiated and student-run group or an outside group.

A student-initiated and student-run group may meet pursuant to the Equal Access Act.

An outside religious club or organization may meet only under the following circumstances.
  • The school allows other outside clubs or organizations to meet at the same time.
  • The school must assume the duty of ensuring that it does not appear to be endorsing or disapproving of religion.
  • The school district must proactively work to prevent even the perception that it may be endorsing the club's religious activity. In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), the U.S. Supreme Court found no perceived endorsement of a religious club's activities because the club meetings were not held in elementary school classrooms, the instructors were not school teachers, the students ranged in age, and the children who attended the club had obtained signed permission slips from their parents.
  • The school may not allow the club or organization to solicit students, unless it allows all groups to do so. If the school allows such solicitation, it must make sure that no proselytizing or religious message is part of the communication.
  • A school district must take extra care to make sure that students from minority religions are not teased or made to feel unwelcome or left out merely because they choose not to attend a religious club meeting.
    For more information or assistance in dealing with this issue, please contact your Regional Anti-Defamation League Office.
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2004 Anti-Defamation League