Fourteen-year-old high school freshman Daniela Barca wanted to meet other Christians at Ketchum High School, located in Hopewell, New York. So, she applied for school approval of a new Christian club at the beginning of the most recent school year.
Weeks passed with no response, while other clubs were approved and started up. When she inquired about the delay, her school administrators said they “lost” her application but had finally located it and would get right on it. A month later, Daniela had still heard nothing. Finally, the school principal, David Seipp, informed her that the school was denying her request, suggesting the school could not promote the club like it did for “secular” clubs like the Pride Club (Gay-Straight Alliance), the Masque & Mime Society, and others. Daniela persisted, sending the principal a copy of the federal Equal Access Act, but the principal also persisted, claiming the school (as a government entity) could not pay a faculty advisor a salary where part of her duties would be to work with a religious club.
After several months of back and forth communications, Daniela and her parents enlisted the aid of the First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, who recently wrote a letter to officials in the Wappingers Central School District, where Ketchum High School is located, explaining why the school’s actions violated the Equal Access Act.
“Wappingers Central school officials engaged in purposeful, intentional religious discrimination against Daniela for months,” Keisha Russell, Counsel to First Liberty, said in an online press statement. “We hope this school district ends its clearly unlawful behavior and protects the religious liberty of every student in all its schools.”
The Equal Access Act has been a federal law since 1984. It is nothing less than amazing that 35 years later, public school administrators still violate it all the time. Let’s pray that the school district in this case will quickly change its mind in this matter and start accommodating the religious freedom of its students.