SoCal School’s Unconstitutional Policy

8 10 2007

Filed under: Long Beach School District, Chris Rand, First Amendment, Churcn and State, Politics

If you were a high school student who had to perform 40 hours of community service in order to graduate, and you fulfilled those hours volunteering for your church, a reasonable person would think this would qualify. Not in the Long Beach school district where breathingists rule. Student, Chris Rand, has sued the school district for an unconstitutional clause in the school’s Community Service Learning Policy manual stating that “service to your religious community does not count.”

The Long Beach school district is being sued by a student who says he was denied credit for community service he performed at his church.

According to the suit, 15-year-old Chris Rand did 80 hours of work with children at a church as a ninth grader earlier this year.

The suit was filed for Rand by Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group based in Florida. It seeks to remove the prohibition and award Rand credit for his work with the church.

Liberty Counsel comments on the suit:

The manual suggests that teaching, tutoring and volunteering in children and youth services are appropriate choices. Chris provided over 80 hours of community service to children at the Long Beach Alliance Church. He interacted with them and answered questions, assisted with crafts and art projects, relayed messages, supervised activity time to help ensure safety, appropriate use of equipment, and proper storage of equipment, helped with arts and crafts, and performed other duties. If Chris had given the same service in a secular school or in a nonreligious childcare program, he would have received credit.

The lawsuit seeks to remove the prohibition on performing service to religious communities, and the complaint is requesting that his service, which is more than twice the required hours, be counted toward the community service requirement.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “According to the school district, community service is required to graduate and only service in secular venues is acceptable. This obvious discrimination against performing community service for religious communities offends the First Amendment.”

Churches do as much if not more community service than the other “qualifying” groups. And discounting service to religious groups is a blatant violation of the First Amendment, regardless of the score. Rand’s only shortcoming in this situation is possibly not reading the complete manual before performing his service. Unless, and much more unlikely, knowing he has 3 1/2 years of high school left, he cleverly completed his hours at the church with the intention of suing if they were rejected in order to blaze the trail for students coming after him. Either way he has a solid case and will probably win.

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