For the 2011/12 school year, the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s (CEF) Good News Club met without fee at Cranston Elementary School in the Cleveland School District. When it sought permission to meet the following year from a new principal, CEF was told that it would have to pay $69 per hour.
This is a different requirement from other groups, like the Boy Scouts, which meet without charge in approximately 140 Cleveland schools. The National Association of Evangelicals joined an amici brief on behalf of CEF and its case seeking equal access for religious community groups.
After CEF requested to meet without fee like the Boy Scouts, the district claimed that it had an “in-kind” arrangement with the Scouts by which it credited the cost of providing uniforms, books and other supplies to the Scouting participants against its usage fee. CEF also provides instructional materials without charge to its program participants and incurs costs in providing its program, which would cover the fee if the school district would give it the same arrangement.
The district court denied preliminary injunctive relief, because CEF had not shown that it satisfied the district’s “fee waiver” policy. CEF appealed the denial of preliminary injunctive relief to the Sixth Circuit.
The amici brief, which was prepared by the Christian Legal Society and joined by the NAE, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, argues that courts have rejected other school districts’ attempts at circumventing the equal access requirement. Further, even if the Cleveland School District has an “in-kind” policy, the unwritten policy grants officials unbridled discretion to determine which groups receive the fee waiver. Both errors amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.