The American Humanist Association won a lawsuit against Colorado School District in a long-running case related to schools promotion of Christianity and raising money for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ mission trip. The case has its roots in June of 2014 when The American Humanist Association (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Douglas County School District in Colorado claiming that officials at Highlands Ranch High School and Cougar Run Elementary School, in their capacities as District employees, were promoting Christianity and raising money for a faith based mission trip. Those AHA’s claims were backed up with detailed and extensive evidence.
School officials were raising money for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) which made it clear that their group’s primary goal is to share the love and hope of Jesus, and that was why they were going to Guatemala. There is no problem in that, if a Christian group wants to go on a trip to promote Christianity that is fine, but the problem is that schools could not support and raise money for this kind of trip, even if the secondary goal of this trip is humanitarian, handing out toiletries and hygiene bags. This was also confirmed in a flyer which was given to all students and parents at the elementary school. The flyer made it clear that the trip is sponsored both by the FCA and the public school six grade class so the school was supporting something like a missionary trip.
This was the reason why the AHA filed a federal lawsuit against the District in October of 2014. AHA wanted the judge to rule that the District violated the Constitution and prevent the District from partnering with Christian groups in the future. The first decision by the Colorado federal district court judge in 2016 was that the plaintiffs did not have the proper legal standing to bring the case. In other words, the court did not say that the District acted according to law; the court only stated that the people who are complaining had no right to sue because they are not affected with the matter. The AHA eventually filed an appeal and the case was sent back to the lower court for a ruling on the merits.
Finally, the court ruled on the case and the decision (by Judge R. Brooke Jackson) finds that the school district violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by promoting and raising money for a Christian mission trip. “Religious minorities in public schools should never be faced with school-sponsored activity that promotes the majority religion,” said David Niose, AHA legal director, as Patheos reports. “The court’s ruling correctly finds that the district’s activities had the effect of promoting religion and excessively entangled the government with religion.”
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