The U.S. Supreme Court granted review of a Second Circuit decision upholding a public school district’s authority to forbid an adult-run student Bible club from meeting immediately after the end of the school day on elementary school grounds. On January 12, 2001, AU filed an amicus brief arguing that allowing such meetings would violate the Establishment Clause.
The Supreme Court disagreed by a vote of 6-3 in a ruling issued on June 11, 2001. The Court held that the denial of access constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the Free Speech Clause because the school allowed other groups to have access to school facilities to teach morals and character from a non-religious standpoint. Five Justices further ruled that allowing the meetings would not violate the Establishment Clause because the students’ parents—and not the students themselves—decided whether students would attend the club’s meetings, and the meetings were not sponsored by the school, did not take place during the school day, did not take place in school classrooms, and did not involve participation by schoolteachers. Justice Breyer provided a sixth vote in support of reversal, finding that the record did not provide an adequate basis to address the Establishment Clause issue, and that the district court’s award of summary judgment to the school was therefore improper. Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg dissented.