Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Liberty Counsel demands Pasco schools distribute fliers for religious clubs

NEW PORT RICHEY — A Christian group wants to attract more kids to the after-school Bible study programs it runs at several Pasco elementary schools.

But when the Child Evangelism Fellowship Suncoast Chapter asked to send fliers home with every student, school officials balked.

So the fellowship group has called in the Liberty Counsel, a nationally recognized legal organization specializing in religious rights, to push for access.

"Sometimes people see religious groups and they try to treat them differently," said Darrin Rogers, executive director of the local Child Evangelism Fellowship chapter. "If some groups can and other groups can't (send home fliers), that would be wrong."

In a letter to district officials, Liberty Counsel lawyer David M. Corry demanded "immediate approval" of the fellowship's fliers in the methods regularly available to nonreligious groups. He also demanded changes to the "unconstitutional district policy" that he said banned wider distribution of the fliers.

"Equal access means equal treatment," Corry wrote. "Discrimination in any form between secular and religious organization messages is unconstitutional."

Except district officials say that's not the case.

"The only people we actually send home fliers for are other government entities," Pasco schools spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said.

The district rejects similar appeals from such groups as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs, she said. Instead, schools provide community tables, where organizations may leave pamphlets, brochures and fliers for students and parents to pick up if they wish. Those tables generally are in school offices.

"We are very uniform in the application of that policy," Romagnoli said.

A representative of the Boys and Girls Club of West Pasco confirmed that practice.

Rogers acknowledged that schools have let his group place information in the office. But he'd like to be able to spread the word about the club, which has operated at Richey, Cypress, Connerton and Chasco elementary schools, to more people than those who stop to grab a flier.

"It kind of makes it hard if you can't let the kids know in school about the club," he said.

The issue echoes larger discussions taking place in the Florida Legislature, where some lawmakers have proposed allowing student groups to lead prayers at school activities. The Anti-Defamation League has argued that students should have individual religious rights in school, but cautioned that schools should not be in the practice of promoting religion.

The Good News Clubs have met at Pasco schools for a couple of years. The children gather after school to have a snack, hear Bible lessons, play games, sing and pray. Volunteers from local churches give the lessons, and organizers sign a lease and pay a fee to the Pasco School Board to use the classroom space.

School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said he didn't believe the Liberty Counsel and the Child Evangelism Fellowship were factually accurate in claiming the district has discriminated against the group. He said the policy under challenge, relating to advertising and promotion, doesn't apply to this situation.

The policy, which refers to advertisement of goods, services and products, states that no ads in schools may promote any specific religion or religious, ethnic or racial group or political candidate.

Alfonso said he was working with the superintendent's office to finalize a response to the Liberty Counsel.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Liberty Counsel demands Pasco schools distribute fliers for religious clubs 04/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.
  2. Rick Kriseman's administration lashed in St. Pete sewage report

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — A state report places much of the blame for the city's 200-million gallon sewage spill crisis on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage from the city's overwhelmed sewer system. St. Petersburg dumped up to 200 million gallons of sewage over 13 months from 2015-16. A new state report blames much of the crisis on mistakes made by the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman, but also critcizes past administrations. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Somalis in Minneapolis on defensive after police shooting

    Nation

    MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau resigned Friday at the request of the mayor, who said she lost confidence in the chief following last week's shooting death of an unarmed Australian woman by a police officer.

    Justine Damond
  4. Pasco burglars attempt -- sort of -- jewelry store heist (w/video)

    Crime

    LUTZ — The Pasco County Sheriff's Office released surveillance video Friday of three men trying — and failing — to rob a jewelry store in broad daylight.

  5. State Dept.: U.S. to block Americans from traveling to North Korea

    World

    The Trump administration plans to prohibit Americans from traveling to North Korea, the State Department announced Friday, citing serious risks of arrest and imprisonment in the isolated totalitarian state.

    Student Otto Warmbier, 22, died June 19 after being released from North Korea in a coma.