Fayette schools agree to stop favoring Christian clubs

The Fayette school district has agreed to change certain policies concerning student organizations after admitting it crossed a line regarding separation of church and state.

Beginning next school year, the Fayette R-III school district will change its policy regarding student organizations, especially those of a religious nature.

The district has settled a lawsuit by the American Humanist Association that asserted that certain procedures followed by the high school violated the establishment clause of the first amendment, which requires the separation of church and state.

One thing the district agreed to change is allowing teacher sponsors of religious organizations to participate in any way in any religious activity, such as prayer, during meetings.

Another is to stop identifying religious activities that will take place during these meetings over the school's loudspeakers during morning announcements.

David Niose, a lawyer for the American Humanist Association, said both of these activities amount to government sponsorship of religion, which is unconstitutional.

He said the Fayette school district settled the suit because "there was a recognition that a line had been crossed.' He said the negotiations were not contentious.

For its part, the district contends that many of the allegations contained in the lawsuit were false, misleading, or taken out of context, but that it agreed that the wording of the morning announcement did, in fact, offend two students.

The district maintains that if the parents of the students had come to the administration with their concerns, the matter could have been resolved without a federal lawsuit and the financial obligations that entailed.

The district, by settling the suit, admitted fault and therefore was responsible for paying the plaintiff's attorney's fees of $41,000.