MT. DORA, Fla. — A school board in Florida has reversed its decision to disallow the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) equal access to school facilities and benefits.
In April of this year, the Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel had filed suit on behalf of FCA of Lake County, Florida after officials at Mount Dora High School allegedly denied the group its request to obtain rights enjoyed by other student groups.
According to Liberty Counsel, secular student groups are allowed to post announcements in the halls and on the marquee, use the public address system and are provided a club section in the school yearbook, among other benefits. But because FCA was denied these same privileges, it asserted that the organization was being wrongfully discriminated against on campus.
“The FCA club and the student plaintiffs have been prohibited from utilizing … limited public advertising fora available to other similarly situated student organizations solely because their club addresses otherwise permissible topics and issues from a religious perspective,” the official complaint stated.
“In addition, unlike other students and student organizations at Mount Dora High School, which are routinely featured in the yearbook without charge, the student plaintiffs have been told that because the FCA club is a religious organization, they must pay an advertising fee if they want their club to be featured…”
“Equal Access means exactly what it says: equal access to every school facility used by other clubs,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, wrote in a press release about the matter. “This includes the use of classroom facilities, intercom systems, bulletin boards, yearbook, financial sponsorship and any other benefit afforded to secular clubs.”
However, in an attempt to settle the lawsuit, the Lake County School District recently entered into an agreement with FCA to grant the Christian group the access it requested. The Lake County School Board then voted unanimously to support the agreement, which would give FCA the same rights as other non-curricular student groups on campus.
Liberty Counsel states that it is pleased with the outcome, but says that much time and resources could have been saved if the school board had granted the request before the matter had to go to court.
“We are thrilled to return the Constitution from exile in Lake County Schools,” said Horatio Mihet, Senior Litigation Counsel at Liberty Counsel. “[But] it is a shame that it took this long because we made very extensive and numerous efforts to resolve this issue without litigation.”
“Now they’re going to have to pay because litigation is not cheap,” Staver added to OneNewsNow. “Certainly we represent our clients without pay but we don’t represent the school board free.”