Bartlett, Tennessee — May 1, 2017. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) sent a letter today on behalf of Katie and John Brown, parents of two elementary school students, to Bartlett School District officials requesting they reverse a decision to shut down an extracurricular bible club taking place before school.
The Altruria bible club was a before-school extracurricular club with dozens of students participating, including Jackson Brown. Jackson enjoyed the club and he and his little sister Ava looked forward to participating in the club this upcoming school year.
However, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a powerful atheist group, heard about the club, they sent a threatening letter to the school district, demanding that the district immediately “investigate” and order its teachers and staff to refrain from participating in extracurricular religious activities. FFRF contends the Establishment Clause strips elementary students of any opportunity to have a Christian-oriented extracurricular club. Unfortunately, the school district failed to account for constitutional rights of students and caved to FFRF’s pressure, shutting down the bible club entirely. While other clubs remain free to operate at Altruria elementary, Jackson and Ava Brown, as well as many other students, have lost their right to participate in a bible club.
CRE’s letter requests the school cease its ban on the bible club, explaining the Establishment Clause does not permit schools to discriminate against religious clubs.
“The Establishment Clause requires government neutrality toward religion, not hostility,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The Supreme Court has held time and again that equal access for religious groups does not violate the First Amendment, but discriminating against them surely does.”