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On Tuesday, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to officials with the Issaquah (WA) School District on behalf of two elementary school students, L.A.W. and J.W., and their parents, demanding the students be allowed to start an interfaith prayer club at school. The school actively promotes more than a dozen non-religious clubs, including a Pride Club and the Green Team.

You can read the letter here.

“Denying the formation of a religious student club while allowing other clubs violates the Constitution,” said Kayla Toney, Associate Counsel at First Liberty Institute. “School officials at Creekside Elementary are engaged in religious discrimination against an eleven-year-old girl who simply wants to pray, feel support from other religious friends, and do community service. In Coach Kennedy’s case just a short drive away in Bremerton, the Supreme Court held that students and staff can pray at school—and to prohibit them violates the First Amendment.”

L.A.W. and J.W. have friends from many different faiths who also feel marginalized. L.A.W. had an especially difficult experience as a religious student in fifth grade. Because of her experience, L.A.W. decided to start an interfaith prayer club so that students like her could have a place after school where they feel safe and welcome, and where they can bring students together to serve their community. L.A.W. and her mother met with Creekside Principal Amy Allison twice in February, but Allison claimed that all the funding for school clubs was allocated in October, so the club would not be allowed to meet. A Pride club, however, was launched and promoted by teachers just a week before L.A.W. met with the principal. Principal Allison told L.A.W. that her only option for the prayer club was to pay for space like outside groups.

Creekside Elementary School is in Sammamish, WA, just a short distance from Bremerton High School, where Coach Joe Kennedy was fired for praying on the football field after each game. Coach Kennedy won his right to pray on the field in a 6-3 Supreme Court decision. The Court’s holding in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District made clear that the First Amendment protects the right of students and employees to express their faith in public schools.

The letter states, “The Court in Kennedy explained that . . . the First Amendment ‘doubly protects religious speech.’ These First Amendment protections extend to elementary school students expressing their sincere religious beliefs through voluntary clubs—including L.A.W. and J.W. Yet the Issaquah School District flouted its First Amendment obligations when Creekside refused to allow a student-led interfaith prayer club. Its unlawful action violates both the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause.”


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