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A New York school district violated anti-discrimination laws by blocking a high school student from forming a Christian club on campus, according to a religious freedom group.
Daniela Barca, a 14-year-old freshman at Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls, New York, expressed interest in founding a Christian student club only to be blocked by school officials. The First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit religious freedom law firm, sent a letter to the Wappingers Central School District claiming that the district's actions violated the Equal Access Act of 1984, which prohibits discrimination "on the basis of religious content." The letter said that Ketcham High School principal David Seipp demonstrated hostility toward Barca's faith after repeatedly stonewalling the student.
"School officials appear pleased to support the political speech of the Pride Club and the philosophical speech of the RAK–Random Acts of Kindness Club, but refuse to support Daniela's proposed club explicitly because of the club's proposed religious speech," the letter says. "By singling out religious clubs and providing them inferior access to school resources than that provided to other noncurricular groups, the District shows a hostility to religion that violates the First Amendment."
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Barca reached out to a special education teacher at Ketcham High about being the faculty sponsor of the club. Barca told the teacher she was interested in forming a club where she could "have discussions about living for God in a godless society." The teacher responded favorably, but after submitting the club's application to administrators, Barca encountered resistance. The high school principal ultimately denied the creation of the club, telling Barca the religious group would be "seen as exclusive." Barca then emailed an assistant superintendent arguing for the creation of the club.
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