Bible club’s equal protection claim dismissed for lack of standing
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause
In Youth Alive v. Hauppauge School District, (ED NY, Oct. 12, 2012), a New York federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a claim by a high school after-school Bible club that the school board violated the Equal Protection clause when, in order to comply with the federal Equal Access Act, it refused to furnish the club a paid advisor. Instead the board required the club to have a volunteer advisor. In finding no injury-in-fact and dismissing the claim, the court said:
The use of an unpaid supervisor to monitor Youth Alive meetings has had no discernible effect on Plaintiffs’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights….. Plaintiffs speculate that a paid advisor would be less likely to cancel meetings than an unpaid advisor, which, in theory, could affect their rights to free speech and exercise of religion…. But the parties stipulated that, unlike all other clubs, if Youth Alive’s unpaid supervisor cannot attend a meeting, Defendants provide a substitute volunteer to supervise the students…. Youth Alive, then, very well may be able to conduct more meetings than non-religious clubs. In any event, the evidence shows at most three cancelled meetings…, which is comparable to clubs with paid advisors.