Monday, March 3, 2008

MD School District Won't Charge CEF

Public school officials in Prince George's County, Maryland, were poised to charge Child Evangelism Fellowship a fee to use after-hours meeting space in public school buildings. Other community groups are not charged for such uses.

Center attorney Kim Colby communicated with school officials on CEF's behalf, explaining that such discrimination was unconstitutional. Today, school officials reversed course, informing us that no charge would be levied upon CEF.

In 2001, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment required public schools to give CEF equal access to after-hours meeting space in public elementary schools. Although most school districts around the country comply with this decision, some of them have not applied its logic to other situations. School districts in Maryland and New Jersey refused to include CEF informational fliers in "backpack mail"; the CLS Center sued and won both cases. Other school districts, like Prince George's, have attempted to charge religious groups a fee while allowing secular groups to meet without charge.

It is certainly encouraging that these school officials eventually did the right thing, although one wonders why they went down the wrong path in the first place.