a journal of analysis and comment
advancing public understanding of religion and education
Fall 2001, Vol. 28 No. 2
An End to the Hecklerís Veto:1 Good News Club v. Milford Central School
Charles J. Russo and Ralph D. Mawdsley
A growing conflict in recent years has centered on whether religious groups can have access to public school facilities. Nearly a decade ago, inLambís Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District,2 the Supreme Court recognized for the first time that religious speech, a fully protected subset of free speech, could limit a school boardís authority to deny access for a religious use to non-student groups. The result was that the board of Lambís Chapel could not prohibit a church group from using a high school auditorium during non-school hours to present a film series on child discipline. Three years later, the Court extended religious free speech rights in Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia,3 when it ruled that a university policy which paid for printing publications by student organizations applied to the journal of a religious group that discussed issues from a Christian perspective. In the interim, lower courts continued to struggle over the access rights of religious groups to school facilities.
In Good News/Good Sports Club v. School District of the City of Ladue,4 the Eighth Circuit permitted a religious club in Missouri to use public school facilities after school since a board permitted other groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to do so. Conversely, in Good News Club v. Milford Central School,5 the Second Circuit denied a Good News Club in New York access to school facilities.6 The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal in Milford7 and, as anticipated,8 ruled that a school boardís refusal to permit a club to use school facilities during non-instructional time violated its right to free speech.9 In light of the Supreme Courtís holding, this article reviews the history of the dispute as well as the opinions of the Justices before reflecting on the significance of Milford for public schools.10
[Fall 2001 Issue Contents]