Federal Appeals Court Considers Whether School District May Bar Teacher From After-School Christian Club

Jun 14, 2004

Minneapolis, MN – The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments at 9:00 a.m. CT today, in a case against a South Dakota school district that prohibited a teacher from participating in an after-school Christian club that meets on campus. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, will argue the case on behalf of the teacher, Barbara Wigg.

Mrs. Wigg, a Christian, wanted to participate in an after-school Good News Club sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship. These meetings are designed for elementary students who attend with parental permission, to learn morals and character development from a Christian perspective. The District policy allows both religious and secular groups to use school facilities for after-school meetings. Mrs. Wigg has participated in many after-school secular meetings, including Girl Scouts. Mrs. Wigg has been an outstanding teacher for many years and loves to teach children.

Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of Mrs. Wigg, and on July 3, 2003, in the first ruling of its kind in the nation, a Sioux Falls federal court ruled in favor of Mrs. Wigg. The court said that the District must allow her to participate in the clubs in any school where she does not teach, but allowed the District to restrict teachers from participating in a Good News Club immediately after school in the same school in which they teach during the day. Since the ruling, Mrs. Wigg has been participating in Good News Clubs in the District during the past year. The District filed an appeal, and is arguing that because Mrs. Wigg is a teacher, she cannot become involved in the clubs anywhere in the District.

According to Staver, “The District Policy of prohibiting a teacher from living out his or her faith after school, during her private time, is astounding and unprecedented.” Staver remarked, “Teachers and employees have the right to participate in these clubs just like any one else from the community. To single out the Good News Club because it teaches religion and to bar teachers from participating in such clubs is unconstitutional."