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Child Evangelism Fellowship of Indiana, Inc. v. Indiana Metropolitan School District of Pike Township

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 1, 2017

CHILD EVANGELISM FELLOWSHIP OF INDIANA, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA METROPOLITAN SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PIKE TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, United States District Judge.

         This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 5). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court has heard oral argument regarding the issues raised therein. The Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART the motion for the reasons and to the extent set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Child Evangelism Fellowship of Indiana, Inc. (“CEF”) sponsors the Good News Club, an after-school enrichment program for elementary school children. As described in CEF's brief:

The Good News Club encourages learning, spiritual growth, moral development, and service to others by providing religious and moral education through lessons from the Bible, encouraging memorization of Bible verses, singing hymns, and reading stories. Good News Club meetings are open to all children who attend school within the District between the ages of five and twelve, who obtain the prior written permission of their parents, regardless of religious background or lack of religious belief. Children are not charged a fee for attending Good News Club meetings, nor do the children engage in commercial or fundraising activities. Children who attend Good News Clubs after the conclusion of their school day are taught Biblical principles, moral values, character qualities, respect for authority, relationships, morals, character development, and issues of importance to their school and community. Children are also encouraged to participate in community service. Good News Clubs are nondenominational and open to all students.

Dkt. No. 6 at 2-3. CEF hosted the Good News Club at New Augusta Public Academy South, one of the elementary schools in Defendant Indiana Metropolitan School District of Pike Township (“the District”), during the spring semester of 2015. It paid a facilities fee of $45 per session, for a total of $270, to use a classroom in the school for its after school meetings. When it learned that other groups, such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, were allowed to use the school's facilities for free, CEF asked the school to be permitted to do so as well. The District denied the request. In response to CEF's assertion that the District was violating the First Amendment by requiring CEF to pay a facilities fee that other groups were not required to pay, the District, through its attorney, replied that the groups that were not required to pay were “invited to participate in [the District's] education programs.” Dkt. No. 1-5 at 2. These groups had not “requested permission to use Pike Schools' facilities but instead [were] joining with Pike Schools to provide programming consistent with Pike Schools' educational mission.” Id. CEF, on the other hand, was a community group that sought to “use the facilities for their own purposes.” Id. All such groups were required to comply with the provisions of the District's Policy 7510, which included the facilities fee requirement.

         Policy 7510 provides, in relevant part:

The School Board believes that the school facilities of this Corporation should be made available for community purposes, provided that such use does not infringe on the original and necessary purpose of the property or interfere with the educational program of the schools and is harmonious with the purposes of this Corporation.
The Board will permit the use of school facilities when such permission has been requested in writing by a responsible organization or a group of citizens and has been approved by the principal and/or by the Director of Facilities.
A. Uses directly related to the schools and the operations of the schools;
B. Uses by non-for-profit or for-profit organizations providing child care programs which meet the State requirements and additional conditions established by Board policies and the Superintendent's guidelines;
C. Uses and groups indirectly related to the schools;
D. Meetings of employee associations; E. Uses for voter ...

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