Religious Clubs, the First Amendment and Public Schools

Print More


After-school clubs that include worship and Bible study straddle a fine line with regard to the First Amendment. In a recently settled lawsuit, officials at Middlebury Union High School determined that current federal law says religious clubs deserve the same benefits and support as other school-sanctioned co-curricular activities.

We talk with Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease about the decision to give a youth religious club space to meet, a budget and an on-campus adviser. Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna helps us explore the evolution of legal thinking on this issue. And we take your calls and e-mails.(Listen)

Also in the program, many Vermont towns are seeing an increase in delinquent property taxes, although the same is not true in New Hampshire. We talk with Valley News Reporter John Gregg about what this might say about the two states’ economies and public policies. (Listen)

And we go backstage at the 2008 Statewide Auditions at St. Michael’s College, where actors compete for spots in films and summer theater companies throughout Vermont and Upstate New York. (Listen)



From Miriam in Hinesburg

My concern is about religious clubs in elementary schools. Specifically, I am
upset that the Good News Clubs have gotten US Supreme Court’s "blessing"
to use school facilities on the same basis as any other community group. The school must allow the club to use any media to advertise that the school allows other groups. This specifically includes the school website and cost of
paper and photocopying.This upsets me because I believe one of Good News’ goals is to convert my children. The web site has an excellent website with the full Supreme Court decision.

I have spoken with friends who live outside of Vermont. Many communities have made the decision to stop allowing all groups to use chool facilities and media. In Vermont, the school is often the center of our communities. Changing our policy to prohibit all community organizations rom using school and school media seems Draconian. However, I believe that the separation of Church and state, while not pecifically stated in our Constitution, is part of our American Society and was clearly intended by our founding fathers. As a Jew whose grandparents fled Nazi Germany, I find Evangelical groups proselytizing in our elementary schools untenable.


From Eric in Greensboro

If the purpose of the Youth Alive club is to study the
bible, doesn’t that clearly put the school in the place of promoting, not merely
accommodating, a particular religion? The club is after all not studying the Koran,
the Talmud, and the Bhagavad Gita


From Bruce in South Burlington

am fully for the separation of church and state. Public schools should
not be using public funds for religious activities. The only valid use of
public funds would be classes in comparative religion.

Vermont does not allow public funding of private religious
schools. If a family chooses to send their children to a religious
school, there is no public funding. In the case of a district that has no high
school sending students to other districts, the towns do not contribute to the
tuition if the chosen school has a religion base.

I have no problem with the religious club using school space as long as it is
outside school hours and paid for privately if the schools charges for use of
their facilities. It is no different than the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts wanting
to have meetings at the school. However it should not have any public funding,
advisers or publication of the activity.



Comments are closed.