BROOKLYN (CN) – A student Christian club sued Hicksville High School on Long Island, challenging the principle’s rule that any religious club on campus be “a ‘multi-faith’ club for all religions and denominations,” and that “non-believers must be allowed to lead the religious club.”
The Frontline Club, two students and their parents sued the Hicksville Board of Education, and Hicksville High School Principal Brijinder Singh in Federal Court.
The students say the high school hosted a Christian club from 1998 to 2000. They add: “At the club meetings, plaintiffs desire to discuss, from a Biblical perspective, a variety of issues facing students, including those related to serving others in the school and community, leadership, peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, abstinence, and promoting respect and dignity for others, just to name a few.”
They say Singh, who has final authority over school clubs, told them “that she was not allowing any religious clubs to receive official recognition at HHS.”
The claim that during a previous attempt to start a Christian club, in 2007 or 2008, “Singh denied the request because she required that any religious club on campus be a ‘multi-faith’ club for all religions and denominations. She also required that that “non-believers must be allowed to lead the religious club.”
That attempt, in late 2007 or early 2008, was made by the older brother of one of the plaintiffs in this complaint.
The plaintiffs say they told Singh that “12 other schools in Nassau County have Christian clubs.”
Singh allegedly responded, “Other schools may have it [Christian clubs], but I don’t want this in my school.” (Brackets in complaint.)
The students say they gave Singh a letter from parents, requesting the Christian club. They say Singh replied: “If I were to support the formation of a club based solely on Christian religious beliefs I would have to afford the same opportunity to any students representing another of the many religious founding within our school community. The cost of providing an advisor to any religious group interested in meeting would be prohibitive at this economically stringent time.”
The plaintiffs are skeptical about the explanation.
“Defendants Board of Education of the Hicksville Union Free School District and Principal Singh apparently saw no problem with ‘afford[ing] the same opportunity’ to students in the Ping-Pong Club and the over 35 other officially recognized clubs such as the Ski Club, Key Club, Interact, Model United Nations, [and] Mock Trial Club,” the complaint states.
“The defendants likewise did not find the costs of providing an advisor to these other officially recognized clubs to be ‘prohibitive.'”
The students say they want to avail themselves of the “benefits and privileges” the school provides for clubs: “including using school facilities for meetings before and after school, making announcements, posting flyers and advertisements for club activities, organizing and participating in field trips during the school day, engaging in fundraising, participating in Homecoming Week activities, among other benefits.”
The students and their parents seek declaratory judgment, an injunction, costs and nominal damages.
They are represented by Robert Dapelo of Patchogue.