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from the College Prep Ministry
RCCP: Legal Questions
Legal Questions for Public School Chapters
- Question: Do I have the right to start a religious based club at a public high school? Answer: Yes!
- Important Information from Ratio Christi's partner, Alliance Defending Freedom
- Read this: A Guide to Constitutionally Protect Religious Freedom on Campus
- Sign Up for ADF eNewsletter to keep up to date on religious freedom issues
Below are some important resources for your review and use. If you are planning on starting a public high school club it is imperative that you understand these issues and contact Ratio Christi College Prep staff if you have any questions or concerns.
Students Rights Handbook
Provided by Alliance Defending Freedom
Students Rights Handbook
Sample Constitution for High School Clubs
Student’s Bill of Rights on a Public School Campus
I. THE RIGHT to Meet with Other Religious Students.
The Equal Access Act allows students the freedom to meet on campus for the purpose of discussing religious issues.
II. THE RIGHT to Identify Your Religious Beliefs through Signs and Symbols.
Students are free to express their religious beliefs through signs and symbols.
III. THE RIGHT to Talk about Your Religious Beliefs on Campus.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right mandated in the Constitution and does not exclude the school yard.
IV. THE RIGHT to Distribute Religious Literature on Campus.
Distributing literature on campus may not be restricted simply because it is religious.
V. THE RIGHT to Pray on Campus.
Students may pray alone or with others so long as it does not disrupt school activities or is not forced on others.
VI. THE RIGHT to Carry or Study Your Bible on Campus.
The Supreme Court has said that only state directed Bible reading is unconstitutional.
VII. THE RIGHT to Do Research Papers, Speeches, and Creative Projects with Religious Themes.
The First Amendment does not forbid all mention of religion in public schools.
VIII. THE RIGHT to Be Exempt.
Students may be exempt from activities and class content that contradict their religious beliefs.
IX. THE RIGHT to Celebrate or Study Religious Holidays on Campus.
Music, art, literature, and drama that have religious themes are permitted as part of the curriculum for school activities if presented in an objective manner as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage of the particular holiday.
X. THE RIGHT to Meet with School Officials.
The First Amendment to the Constitution forbids Congress to make any law that would restrict the right of the people to petition the Government (school officials).
Note:The Students’ Bill of Rights on a Public School Campus, may be duplicated without permission from the publisher. Parchment copies of this page (suitable for framing) and/or the book, Students’ LEGAL RIGHTS on a Public School Campus (detailing each right), may be obtained by calling or writing the Publisher. Roever Communications, P.O. Box 136130, Ft. Worth, TX 76136, (817) 237-2587.
The Equal Access Act
(Title VIII of Public Law 98-377)
Sec. 801. This title may be cited as “The Equal Access Act.”
Denial of Equal Access Prohibited
(a) It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.
(b) A public secondary school has a limited open forum whenever such school grants an offering to or opportunity for one or more non-curriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during non-instructional time.
(c) Schools shall be deemed to offer a fair opportunity to students who wish to conduct a meeting within its limited open forum if such school uniformly provides that–
(1) the meeting is voluntary and student-initiated;
(2) there is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school, the government, or its agents or employees;
(3) employees or agents of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in a nonparticipatory capacity;
(4) the meeting does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school; and
(5) nonschool persons may not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.
(d) Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the United States or any State or political subdivision thereof –
(1) to influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity;
(2) to require any person to participate in prayer or other religious activity;
(3) to expend public funds beyond the incidental cost of providing the space for student-initiated meetings;
(4) to compel any school agent or employee to attend a school meeting if the content of the speech at the meeting is contrary to the beliefs of the agent or employee;
(5) to sanction meetings that are otherwise unlawful;
(6) to limit the rights of groups of students which are not of a specified numerical size; or
(7) to abridge the constitutional rights of any person.
(e) Notwithstanding the availability of any other remedy under the Constitution or the laws of the United States, nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the United States to deny or withhold Federal financial assistance to any school.
(f) Nothing in this title shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary.
Sec. 803. As used in this title –
(1) The term “secondary school” means a public school which provides secondary education as determined by State law.
(2) The term “sponsorship” includes the act of promoting, leading, or participating in a meeting. The assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to a meeting for custodial purposes does not constitute sponsorship of the meeting.
(3) The term “meeting” includes those activities of student groups which are permitted under a school’s limited open forum and are not directly related to the school curriculum.
(4) The term “noninstructional time” means time set aside by the school before actual
classroom instruction begins or after actual classroom instruction ends.
Sec. 804. If any provision of this title or the application thereof to any person or
circumstances is judicially determined to be invalid, the provisions of the remainder of the
title and the application to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
Sec. 805. The provisions of this title shall supersede all other provisions of Federal law
that are inconsistent with the provisions of this title.
For further information or legal advise regarding the “Equal Access Guidelines” contact:
or, Ratio Christi College Prep staff : web, phone ___________ . RC will connect you with appropriate and free of charge legal representation.
Other Legal Aid Organizations for Christian Groups
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- The American Center for Law and Justice
- National Legal Foundation
- Christian Legal Society
- The Rutherford Institute