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Court Bars Rental Fees for Afterschool Religion Club

A federal judge has issued an injunction barring a Virginia school district from imposing rental fees on an afterschool religious club when it waives the fees for the Boy Scouts and most school-related groups and charitable events.

U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson of Newport News, Va., said in his Aug. 8 opinion that the rental policy of the Williamsburg-James City County school district likely violates the First Amendment rights of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Virginia, which sponsors the afterschool Good News Clubs promoting Christianity among voluntary attendees.

The district's "policy empowers its superintendent to decide which organizations are allowed to
have fee waivers without setting forth any concrete standards," Judge Jackson said in granting the religious group's request for a preliminary injunction.

The judge said the facts were similar to a 2006 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va. In that case, Child Evangelism Fellowship of South Carolina v. Anderson School District No. 5 , the appeals court held that a superintendent's broad discretion to deny fee waivers to the Good News Club violated the First Amendment.

Although it dealt not with fee waivers but the question of whether such afterschool religious clubs could meet at all on school grounds, another instructive case in this general area is the U.S. Supreme Court's 2001 decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School.

Liberty Counsel, which helped win the Virginia injunction for Child Evangelism Fellowship, has this press release on the case.

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