Good News Club v. Milford Central School
In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), the Supreme Court ordered a public school to allow a religious group to use its facility during a limited forum held after school hours for other groups. Five Justices held that the religious group could even engage in worship in the school.
Justice Thomas wrote for the Court that "speech discussing otherwise permissible subjects cannot be excluded from a limited public forum on the ground that the subject is discussed from a religious viewpoint."
Justice Thomas elaborated as follows:
- Fourth, even if we were to consider the possible misperceptions by schoolchildren in deciding whether Milford's permitting the Club's activities would violate the Establishment Clause, the facts of this case simply do not support Milford's conclusion. There is no evidence that young children are permitted to loiter outside classrooms after the schoolday has ended. Surely even young children are aware of events for which their parents must sign permission forms. The meetings were held in a combined high school resource room and middle school special education room, not in an elementary school classroom. The instructors are not schoolteachers. And the children in the group are not all the same age as in the normal classroom setting; their ages range from 6 to 12. In sum, these circumstances simply do not support the theory that small children would perceive endorsement here.
Justice Breyer became the sixth Justice to side with the religious group, but he merely held that the facts should be developed further to see "whether a child, participating in the Good News Club's activities, could reasonably perceive the school's permission for the club to use its facilities as an endorsement of religion."