Thursday, July 19, 2018

School's Mission Trip Fundraising Violated Establishment Clause

In American Humanist Association, Inc. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, (D CO, July 17, 2018), a Colorado federal district court, in a case on remand from the 10th Circuit, held that a school district's promotion and fund raising for a Christian mission trip to assist orphans in Guatemala violated the Establishment Clause.  The court concluded that the school's activities violated both the effect and entanglement prongs of the Lemon test.  The court said in part:
The very concept of a mission trip has religious intimations. The Guatemala mission trip was overtly religious. It was organized by District students and teachers who are part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; it was planned through a Christian organization called Adventures in Missions: Christian Mission Trips; and the fundraising page for the trip noted “our group’s primary goal is to share the love and hope of Jesus.” ... In addition, the student organizer of the trip testified that “the plan was to . . . introduce [children] to the Bible” and to “promote Christianity.” ... It was no secret to the defendants that the supplies and money donated during the Cougar Run supply drive would be used to directly advance Christian goals.
The court granted summary judgment to the individual plaintiff, but dismissed the associational plaintiff in the case. Denver Post reports on the decision.