Tag Archive for: Creekside Elementary

Elementary School Denies Request to Start Prayer Club, Approves ‘Pride Club’

In 2015, religious freedom seemed compromised when a Washington high school football coach was fired for praying with his team after a game. Joe Kennedy waited roughly six years for the Supreme Court to hear the oral arguments for his case. He was represented by a Christian nonprofit legal organization, First Liberty Institute (FLI), which took the position that “no teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public.” This was a notable case in 2022, and recent events have caused the issue to resurface.

Earlier this year, Laura, an 11-year-old girl who attends Creekside Elementary in Washington State, requested to start an interfaith prayer club at her school. But her request was denied.

When Laura and her mom approached the principal about the matter in February, they were informed that the school’s budget for clubs had been finalized in October. And according to a spokesperson for Issaquah School District, “[C]lubs offered are student-interest driven and meet outside of the school day. At the elementary level, participation in a club also requires parent permission. Once the school year begins, the building budget is set, and additional clubs are usually not added until the following school year.” But the story doesn’t end here.

Laura’s group, which she hoped to start with her friend, was meant to include people of all different religious backgrounds. She shared with Fox News that she was feeling alone, and that she thought this would be a good idea to bring students together. “I think that this is something that I am very passionate about,” she added. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t really want to make this happen, if I didn’t think that it would be a great opportunity for everyone.” It was later discovered that an LGBT club was approved only a week prior to Laura’s club request being denied, which has caused spectators to raise their eyebrows.

As a result of this alleged hypocrisy, Laura filed a lawsuit on the grounds of religious discrimination with the help of FLI. Attorneys pointed out in a letter to the school, “The First Amendment ‘doubly protects religious speech.’ These First Amendment protections extend to elementary school students expressing their sincere religious beliefs through voluntary clubs. Yet the school district flouted its First Amendment obligations when they refused to allow a student-led interfaith prayer club. Its unlawful action violates both the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause.”

Kayla Toney, associate counsel at First Liberty Institute, explained, “Denying the formation of a religious student club while allowing other clubs violates the Constitution,” drawing attention to the fact that the similar case with Coach Kennedy occurred “just a short drive away” from Laura’s elementary school. And in comments to The Washington Stand, Arielle Del Turco, Family Research Council’s director of the Center for Religious Liberty, said, “The fact that Creekside Elementary denied a religious club the same month that it approved a Pride club reveals a lot about American culture right now.”

She continued, “Sadly, the promotion of LGBT identities is held sacred while religion is sidelined and marginalized. It’s heartbreaking that Laura, a fifth-grade student, felt alone at school as a religious believer and that she knew other students who felt the same way. She reacted in exactly the right way by making an effort to build community with religious students.”

Del Turco went on to emphasize that, “Oftentimes, when people seek to prevent religious expression in government venues, they will use the excuse that they don’t want to imply that the government favors one religion over another.” However, when it comes to Laura’s case, she pointed out that “the school doesn’t even have that flimsy excuse because the students were seeking to start a … club that would be open to students of different faiths.”

Ultimately, “Any school that allows other clubs while specifically denying religious clubs is acting in a discriminatory manner and violating the First Amendment, which protects freedom of expression and the free exercise of religion.” Del Turco concluded, “Christian fifth graders shouldn’t face viewpoint discrimination from their school leadership. It shouldn’t have had to come to this, but I fully expect this injustice to be rectified in the courts.”


Sarah Holliday

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.


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