Dec 7, 2017
An important U.S. Supreme Court case affected religious practice and speech in public schools. It was the Good News Club versus Milford Central School case from 2001. This audio file provides the actual argument before the Supreme Court. The voices include the attorney representing the Good News Club and voices of the Supreme Court justices as they ask questions.
Under New York law, Milford Central School policy authorizes district residents to use its building after school for certain activities. Two parents were district residents who were eligible to use the school's facilities. They sought approval of their proposed use and sponsorship of the Good News Club, a private Christian organization for children. The parents submitted a request to hold the Club's weekly afterschool meetings at the school. Milford denied the request reasoning that the proposed use, including singing songs, hearing Bible lessons, memorizing scripture, and praying, was the equivalent of religious worship prohibited by the community use policy. The Club filed suit alleging that the denial violated its free speech rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Ultimately, the District Court granted Milford summary judgment to not grant permission. The parents then appealed the decision. After hearing the case, the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that because the subject matter of the Club's was "quintessentially religious", and the activities "fall outside the bounds of pure 'moral and character development,'" According to them, Milford's policy of excluding the Club's meetings was constitutional subject discrimination, not unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
The parents appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. The question for the court was, “Did Milford Central School violate the First Amendment free speech rights of the Good News Club when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school? If a violation occurred, was it justified by Milford's concern that permitting the Club's activities would violate the Establishment Clause?” The court reversed the previous court decisions by ruling six justices to three in favor of the parents and the Good News Club.