Where do we draw the line between church and state? The students at Kentridge High School in Washington don’t seem to believe that there should be a line at all. Why? Because removing religion from public schools would be discriminatory. They want the state to fund religious organizations that exclude people of other faiths. They argue that the state already funds racial and gay rights groups. It just isn’t fair!
The students filed a suit against the Kent School District, arguing that Kent is discriminating against them based on their religion. According to the students, the First Amendment allows them to create an on-campus “Truth Bible Club” with full funding and yearbook-picture rights. However, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the students refuse to grant official membership and voting rights to those who do not sign a document that confirms “the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” Michael Harrington, Kent’s legal advisor, said that this was a reasonable cause to restrict the club’s access to the public school’s funds.
According to Harrington, the club does not allow membership for all students but expects the entire student body to fund it. Mike Tierney, the Kent school district’s representative, said that the public school district is “an arm of the state,” and thus cannot sanction any group that excludes people from becoming members based on race or religion. Other clubs are focused on issues concerning one group but allow membership to all who are interested. Tierney continues, “I do not believe a group of skinheads could create an Aryan club and call it ‘God Only Loves White People’ and expect the student body to charter it.” Harrington agrees, “It may be more accurate to call them the Christian Bible Club. That way, people of another faith won’t be offended.”
Camron Barth, the 2003 vice president of the Associate Student Body, said, “The name ‘Truth’ implies that everything else is a lie. … We want to celebrate our diversity. I support the club, but the name should be changed. ASB is willing to compromise.” In fact, ASB told the club that if it wanted school funding, all it had to do was open membership to all students and change the name to a less offensive one. However, the students refused. One student said that there is no compromising when it comes to God and that the school was trying to suppress his beliefs, even though it allows the club to meet on campus.
The students who support the club believe that “truth” is synonymous with “Jesus” and that it is not reasonable to make them change the name. Unfortunately, these students believe that their religion is the true religion and that allowing others to access membership without faith defeats the purpose of the club, even if others fund it. According to Chuck Lid, another lawyer for Kent, “The district has no problem with religious clubs,” since they already have two other Bible groups that are open to all students.
Despite the original ruling against the close-minded Christian students, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and revived the case on April 25.
Resham Parikh is a first-year international studies major. She can be reached at