I’M A SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
We appreciate your interest in learning about Project 7 (P7). Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions, along with answers.
1. WHAT IS PROJECT 7?
Project 7 (P7) is a free resource for students, spiritual leaders, and school administrators to utilize for the purpose of starting Bible Clubs on high school and middle school campuses. P7 Clubs are student-led and -driven and are an opportunity for students to participate in a spiritually inspired, relationship-driven, community-serving project in their school.
2. WHAT IS A BIBLE CLUB?
A Bible Club is a faith-based, student-led club. Such clubs encourage respect for authority, community service, and healthy relationships, as well as encouraging students to study the Holy Bible and practice Christianity.
While Bible Clubs are intended for Christians, they do not discriminate against non-Christians or restrict any respectful person from attending. The clubs are informational in nature and positive and encouraging in practice.
3. WHAT IS THE SCHOOL’S ROLE?
According to the Equal Access Act of 1984 (see below), schools that allow a limited open forum (non-curriculum-related student groups that meet on school premises during non-instructional time) are to give fair opportunity to Bible clubs to have access to a room to meet (provided by the school), to provide a non-participatory sponsor, and to grant equal access to bulletin boards, PA systems, announcements, yearbook, newspapers, etc., as is granted to other limited open forum groups.
Please go here to read more.
In short, students interested in a P7 club will request that you provide a room, a non-participatory sponsor, a non-instructional time to hold their meeting, and access to all the same promotional venues as other clubs. The school is not allowed to “endorse” or “encourage” participation, but they are required to allow students to promote it as a student-led club.
4. WHAT ABOUT THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE?
Some school administrators are concerned about crossing the line when it comes to the involvement of a school in such faith-based clubs. The common phrase for this concept is “Separation of Church and State.” However, that is not actually a legal term, but rather a concept quoted by Thomas Jefferson as an attempt to explain the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause.
The Establishment Clause prohibits the government (including schools) to “establish” a religion. Equally important to the Establishment Clause is the Free Exercise Clause, which “protects citizens’ right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of ‘public morals’ or a ‘compelling’ governmental interest.” To read more about this, please go here.
“It is well established that ‘Students don’t shed their constitutional rights
at the school house gates.’ ” – Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
A P7 club is a student-led and student-driven club. According to the USC Equal Access Act:
“It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.” See here.
- For a copy of the Equal Access Act from the US Justice Department, please go to their website, here.
- The US Department of Education has created a guide for schools entitled: “LEGAL GUIDELINES REGARDING THE EQUAL ACCESS ACT AND THE RECOGNITION OF STUDENT-LED NONCURRICULAR GROUPS” on their website, here.
- A quick-guide on what the US Department of Education says about religious freedom in schools is available here.
- A statement of principles by the US Department of education on religious expression is available here.
The Supreme Court’s decision about the relationship between Bible clubs, the Establishment Clause and the Equal Access Act:
Westside Community Schools v. Mergers, 496 U.S. 226 (1990)
Public schools may not prohibit student religious groups from meeting on school grounds after hours. Westside School District prevented a student religious club from meeting on its property after hours, citing First Amendment concerns. The club argued that the school’s action violated their Free Exercise rights and the federal Equal Access Act. The Equal Access Act was passed by Congress to ensure that any school receiving federal funds could not prevent religious and other groups from using school property after hours. The Supreme Court upheld the Equal Access Act against an Establishment Clause challenge, saying that “neutrality” and no “hostility” to religion is all that is required by the First Amendment. See here.
If you are a teacher and would like to know more about your religious freedom, please go here.
5. WHO CAN I CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION?
The P7 Coordinator will be happy to assist you in any way and answer any concerns you may have that aren’t addressed on this page. He is available here.