School rules out religion: Atlanta Public Schools challenged after blocking club

ADF attorneys file lawsuit against school district for denying Christian student club equal treatment
Thursday, March 26, 2009

ATLANTA — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a complaint Wednesday against the Atlanta Public Schools on behalf of a student and his mother.  The two claim their constitutional rights have been violated by school officials who have repeatedly denied their Christian club access to the same rights, benefits, and privileges given to all other student clubs at Sutton Middle School.

“Christian student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman.  “The First Amendment and federal law prohibit such actions on the basis of religion, and this has been established by decades of court precedent.”

Over the past six months, Atlanta Public School officials have repeatedly refused equal treatment to the Student to Student Club.  A number of other non-curriculum-related, student-led clubs--including Power Over Prejudice, Puppetry Club, and Knitting Club--are permitted to meet free of charge at Sutton Middle School and are entitled to a number of other benefits and privileges, including the ability to publicize club meetings and activities through a variety of communicative channels.

But school officials have singled out the STS club for discriminatory treatment, forcing the club to pay monthly rent for meeting space and excluding the club from accessing any of the privileges extended to other Sutton student clubs--including all means to communicate its activities.  School officials have even prohibited STS club members from talking about the club with interested students or parents while on school grounds.

“The STS club is entitled to the same benefits given to all other student clubs on campus,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Joshua Bolinger.  “When school officials deny equal treatment simply because the club is religious, that’s unconstitutional.”

ADF-allied attorneys S. Fenn Little and Jonathan Crumly of Little, Crumly & Chambliss, LLP, in Atlanta are assisting with the case.

  • Complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, in Shelton v. Atlanta Public Schools

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.