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Liberty Counsel filed a supplemental brief supporting its motion that asks a federal district court to issue a preliminary injunction against the Hawaii State Department of Education and four of its superintendents for unconstitutionally blocking Child Evangelism Fellowship of Hawaii (CEF) from hosting its elementary school Good News Clubs in certain district facilities that are open to other similarly situated non-religious organizations. Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit seeking the injunction so CEF Hawaii’s Good News Clubs can gain equal access to public facilities to host its after school program.

In the lawsuit, CEF Hawaii states six different elementary schools repeatedly denied its Good News Clubs equal access to public school facilities over a three-year period. Hawaii’s Department of Education concedes that one school denied CEF Hawaii use of its facilities based on religion, while another school’s denial was due to a “misapplication” of school policies. CEF Hawaii contends that after it appealed the “blatant religious discrimination” of these denials to the Department of Education, it never received any response, nor did school officials take any corrective actions.

If granted, the injunction would secure protection for the Good News Clubs from viewpoint discrimination, as well as ensure the clubs get equal access to school facilities and timely responses regarding facility-use applications.

Specifically, Liberty Counsel requests the injunction require the Hawaii Department of Education accomplish three things:

  1. Update its facility-use policies with “objective criteria” that prevents all discretion to deny facility-use applications based on religious viewpoints.
  2. Classify CEF Hawaii in the same category as other similarly situated nonprofit groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girls on the Run, because CEF Hawaii “explicitly meets” the state’s definition of a “nonprofit community organization.”
  3. Amend administrative rules so facility-use applications are processed within 14 days from submission and appeals are decided within 10 days.

CEF Hawaii 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 a fee and welcome children with written permission from parents. There are currently 3041 Good News Clubs in public elementary schools across the United States, including several in Hawaii schools.

Prior to COVID-19, CEF Hawaii had active Good News Clubs in over a dozen schools on Oahu and other islands. Then, after restricting after-school programs due to COVID-19, school officials partially restarted after-school programs in November 2021, and fully restored after-school programs in 2022.

In 2022, CEF Hawaii submitted applications to host Good News Clubs in several schools, including Nu’uanu Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Waimea Elementary, Kalihi Waena Elementary, Kohala Elementary School, and Pearl City Elementary.

However, the Hawaii State Department of Education, through the Superintendent Defendants and other officials, has denied every request submitted by CEF and either expressly or effectively denied every appeal, while allowing access for other similar groups to meet after school on campus.

Liberty Counsel represents CEF nationally and has never lost a case involving Good News Clubs.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Hawaii education officials have clearly discriminated against and ignored the Good News Clubs, and the requested injunction will ensure they get equal access. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public schools cannot discriminate against Christian viewpoints regarding use of school facilities. Child Evangelism Fellowship gives children a biblically based education that includes moral and character development. Good News Clubs should be in every public elementary school and that includes in these Hawaii schools.”

Author: Liberty Counsel


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