Good News/Good Sports Club v. School Dist. of Ladue

Decision Date02 March 1993
Docket NumberNo. 4:92CV001813 ELF.,4:92CV001813 ELF.
Citation859 F. Supp. 1239
PartiesThe GOOD NEWS/GOOD SPORTS CLUB, Jordan Heimburger, a minor, by his Next Friend, L. Corbett Heimburger, Christopher Hirt, a minor, by his Next Friend, Peggy Hirt, David Hirt, a minor, by his Next Friend, Peggy Hirt, Comfort Ibe, a minor, by her Next Friend, Afocha Ngozi Ibe, Peggy Hirt, John Hirt, Susan Mallory, George Mallory, Larry Tychsen, Dawn Huffman, Gabor Csengody, Pat Csengody, Afocha Ngozi Ibe, Kathryn Heimburger, and L. Corbett Heimburger, Plaintiffs, v. The SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF LADUE, Barbara Sacks, Charles H. Cobaugh, Joyce Follman, Robert Minkler, Ann Boon, and Charles McKenna, in their individual capacities, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Timothy Belz, Principal, Belz and Beckemeier, St. Louis, MO, Carl Howard Esbeck, University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Law, Columbia, MO, Randall Mark England, Mexico, MO, for Good News/Good Sports Club.

Timothy Belz, Principal, Belz and Beckemeier, St. Louis, MO, Carl Howard Esbeck, University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Law, Columbia, MO, Jordan Heimburger, Christopher Hirt, David Hirt, Comfort Ibe, Peggy Hirt, John Hirt, Susan Mallory, George Mallory, Larry Tychsen, Dawn Huffman, Gabor Csengody, Pat Csengody, Afocha Ngozi Ibe, Kathryn Heimburger and L. Corbett Heimburger.

John Gianoulakis, Partner, Kohn and Shands, Robert G. McClintock, St. Louis, MO, for School Dist. of the City of Ladue, Barbara Sacks, Charles H. Cobaugh, Joyce Follman, Robert Minkler, Ann Boon and Charles McKenna.

Robert A. Wulff, Managing Partner, Amelung and Wulff, St. Louis, MO, Kimberlee W. Colby, Center for Law & Religious Freedom, Annandale, VA, for Christian Legal Society.

MEMORANDUM

FILIPPINE, Chief Judge.

This matter is before the Court for a decision on the merits after trial to the Court. After consideration of the pleadings, the testimony and exhibits introduced at trial, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law, the Court enters the following memorandum which it adopts as its findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Plaintiffs brought this action for injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Use of Premises Policy adopted on July 20, 1992 ("Amended Use Policy") by defendant Ladue School District ("School District") violates plaintiffs' rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and has authority to enter declaratory and injunctive relief in the event a constitutional violation is found. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202. Additionally, venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

Plaintiffs' action is in two counts: Count I alleges violation of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment; Count II alleges violation of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. In support of their Free Speech claim, plaintiffs present the following legal theories: (1) that the Amended Use Policy is facially discriminatory based on the content of an organization's speech; (2) that the plaintiffs have standing to assert the First Amendment rights of Scout programs based on the facially discriminatory no-religion proviso of the Amended Use Policy; and (3) that defendants acted with an unconstitutional motive when they amended the School District's use of premises policy and that this allegedly unconstitutional motive invalidates the Amended Use Policy. In support of their claims under the religion clauses of the First Amendment, plaintiffs present the following legal theories: (1) that the Amended Use Policy is unconstitutional on its face and that plaintiffs have third party standing to raise this issue; and, (2) that the Amended Use Policy is not neutral, in purpose or effect, as to religion and the Policy thus violates the First Amendment's Religion Clauses.

The School District of the City of Ladue ("School District") is a public, six director, school district created pursuant to Missouri law. The individual defendants are current members of the Ladue School Board ("Board" or "School Board"); there is one vacancy on the present Board. The Good News/Good Sports Club ("Club") is a voluntary unincorporated association made up of students and parents residing within the School District. Although the Club is nondenominational, the purpose of the Club is to provide junior high school age children an opportunity to experience constructive interaction with peers and to examine the moral values taught by Christianity. An additional purpose of the Club is to provide one means by which the parent sponsors of the Club can pass on their Christian religious beliefs to young persons.

The format of a typical Club meeting includes an opening prayer, snack, some activity (such as a skit), singing of Christian songs, a discussion based on a Bible reading, and a closing prayer. Some individual plaintiffs are students who have attended meetings and/or would like to attend meetings of the Club in the future. The remaining individual plaintiffs are parents of students residing within the School District whose children have attended Club meetings in the past and/or would like to attend meetings in the future. Those parents would like their children to attend Club meetings.

The Club has its roots in religious clubs for children and adolescents initiated in the late 1970's by Jane Cunningham, a former Board member of the School District.1 Ms. Cunningham formed the Good News Club2 while her child was a student at Reed Elementary School, an elementary school within the School District. The Club traditionally met once a month after school either in Ms. Cunningham's home or the home of another interested adult. The students attending those Club meetings did not utilize School District modes of transportation to get home after the meeting.

The Club began meeting after school at Ladue Junior High School in December, 1988. Ms. Cunningham, or other Club sponsors, applied for permits for the Club to meet at the Junior High School and those permits were granted by defendant Dr. Charles McKenna, Superintendent of the School District. The Club met once a month directly after school for the remainder of the 1988-89 school year and for the 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991-92 school years. Some, but not all, of the permit applications included the name "Good News" as the title of the group seeking access. The first application to include the word "Bible" or to clearly indicate that the group met for religious purposes was the application filed by plaintiff L. Corbett Heimburger for the 1991-92 school year.

At its public meeting on February 10, 1992, the School Board heard complaints from two parents regarding alleged recruitment of their children to attend Club meetings. The Board also heard comments in support of the Club. The Board directed its attorney to look into the issue of access by religious groups to School District facilities and to examine the Use of Premises Policy adopted in 1986 ("1986 Use Policy"). Citizen comments both for and against access to School District facilities by the Club, comments regarding the nature of the Club, and further discussion regarding the 1986 Use Policy occurred at Board meetings from February, 1992, through July, 1992.

The 1986 Use Policy allowed access to any community or student organization upon application for a permit and depending on availability of space. The attorney for the School District reported at the Board meeting on March 11, 1992, that the 1986 Use Policy might violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The School District's attorney ultimately recommended adoption of the Amended Use Policy, which was in fact adopted by the Board, in closed session, on July 20, 1992. The Amended Use Policy provides that community groups will be permitted to use School District facilities, upon application for a permit, after 6:00 p.m. on school days and after 8:00 a.m. on other days. The Amended Use Policy also provides, in relevant part:

Permission for use of school facilities after instructional time ends on school days will be granted to Community Groups: (1) for use of District's athletic facilities, provided that the use is limited exclusively to athletic activities; and (2) for meetings of Scouts (Girl, Boy, Cub, Tiger Cub, and Brownies), provided that such meetings shall be limited exclusively to the scout program and shall not include any speech or activity involving religion or religious beliefs.

Subsequent to adoption of the Amended Use Policy, the Club, through plaintiff L. Corbett Heimburger, submitted an application to meet on the first Monday of each month for the 1992-93 school year from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Plaintiffs' application was not approved because no group, except Scout groups and groups using the athletic facilities, are allowed to meet until after 6:00 p.m. on school days under the Amended Use Policy. Plaintiffs then brought this action alleging that the restriction on access violates the First Amendment.

Any analysis of whether government regulation restricting access to government property violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment must begin with an analysis of the type of forum to which access is restricted. Initially, this Court "must identify the nature of the forum, because the extent to which the Government may limit access depends on whether the forum is public or nonpublic." Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense and Educ. Fund, Inc., 473 U.S. 788, 797, 105 S.Ct. 3439, 3446, 87 L.Ed.2d 567 (1985). This Court must determine whether the School District has opened its facilities to the community for expressive activity and, if so, whether the forum thereby created should be categorized as a traditional public forum, a nonpublic forum, or a limited public forum. Following...

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4 cases
  • Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Anderson School
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • July 7, 2006
    ...to remain in effect for a limited period of time" to protect those interests); see also Good News/ Good Sports Club v. School Dist. of the City of Ladue, 859 F.Supp. 1239, 1244 (E.D.Mo.1993), reed on other grounds, 28 F.3d 1501 (8th Cir.1994) (finding that the longstanding relationship betw......
  • The Good News Club v. Milford Cent. School
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of New York
    • October 23, 1998
    ...News is to "pass along Christian faith and morality to the student members of the Club." Good News/Good Sports Club v. School District of City of Ladue, 859 F.Supp. 1239, 1248 (E.D.Mo. 1993), rev'd, 28 F.3d 1501 (8th Cir.1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1173, 115 S.Ct. 2640, 132 L.Ed.2d 878 (1......
  • Good News Club v. Milford Central Sch.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • August 1, 1998
    ...42 U.S.C. 1983 on the ground that the policy violated their First Amendment right to free speech. See Good News/Good Sports Club v. School Dist., 859 F. Supp. 1239, 1241 (E.D. Mo. 1993). The district court entered judgment in favor of the school district, but the Eighth Circuit reversed on ......
  • US v. Valdez, Crim. No. 94-60.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • August 17, 1994

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