On Wednesday, a federal district court entered a default against the Providence Public School District and its superintendent, Dr. Javier Montanez, in Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and its Good News Clubs. The school district has discriminated against CEF Rhode Island by not allowing its Good News Clubs on campuses while allowing other clubs to meet.
Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the school district on March 10, 2023. The Providence Public School District did not answer the complaint by the court’s deadline. Yesterday, Liberty Counsel filed an application to enter a default against the school district which will allow Liberty Counsel to seek a final judgment against the defendants. Today, the federal court entered the default against the district and its superintendent. Having raised no defense to the lawsuit, the district will be subject to a judgment requiring it to provide equal access to the Good News Clubs. Liberty Counsel will also pursue attorney’s fees and costs against the defendants.
The school district previously allowed CEF Rhode Island to run a Good News Club at D’Abate Elementary School for the 2019–2020 school year before COVID caused the cancelation of all clubs in Spring 2020. When CEF Rhode Island requested to resume the Good News Club, as well as start a new club at Leviton Elementary for the 2021–2022 school year, district officials failed to respond to repeated facilities use applications by CEF Rhode Island. In March 2021, Liberty Counsel received thousands of pages of public records from the school district revealing that when it denied the Good News Clubs’ facilities use requests by repeated failures to respond, the school district was routinely approving the requests of similar groups. In November and December 2021, Liberty Counsel requested prompt approval of CEF’s requests to hold the after school Good News Clubs. The school district did not approve any of CEF’s facilities use requests, despite Liberty Counsel’s letters setting forth the applicable facts, policies, and law.
In June 2022, the Good News Club even submitted a “community partner” application. Again, the school district never responded while a comparable non-profit club, Girls on the Run, had its first spring meeting on February 27, 2023.
Therefore, for nearly two years, the district has blocked CEF Rhode Island from hosting its elementary school Good News Clubs on district school facilities. Yet other organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Girls on the Run are given free use of school facilities for after school programs.
CEF Rhode Island is a Christian non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Child Evangelism Fellowship Inc., an international non-profit worldwide children’s ministry. CEF Good News Clubs positively impact the lives of children and their families. Good News Clubs typically meet once per week, immediately after school, and are led by trained and vetted local community volunteers. The clubs provide religious and other teaching and activities to encourage learning, spiritual growth, and service to others, as well as social, emotional, character, and leadership development.
Good News Clubs do not charge any fee and welcome children with written permission from parents. There are currently more than 4,800 Good News Clubs in public elementary and middle schools across the United States, including in other Rhode Island school districts.”
In June 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court in Good News Club v. Milford Central School ruled that public schools violate the First Amendment by not providing equal access and equal treatment to Christian clubs when the school has opened the forum to secular clubs, as in this case.
Liberty Counsel has represented approximately 200 CEF cases nationally and has never lost a case involving Good News Clubs.