News & Events
First unofficial meeting of "Origins IDEA Club" hosted at Southern Lehigh High School - May 16, 2002
On Wednesday May 15, the "Origins IDEA Club", an IDEA Club Chapter about to start at Southern Lehigh High School in Lehigh, Pennsylvania had its first unofficial meeting. The meeting is "unofficial" because the club has not yet finished the process of being recognized as an official club at his school, and therefore is not yet an official IDEA Center chapter. However, the following is a report from Ryan Hamilton, a sophomore who is trying get the Origins IDEA Club started at his school:
Wednesday the 15th of May saw the first "Origins IDEA Club" meeting held in the cafeteria among students eating their breakfast. Our topic was religion in public schools. 9 people actually showed up, and it went well. We started off just asking for opinions of what we thought about religion being in a public school, and how we thought it should be. We discussed evolution being taught as science while other theories left as religion or unscientific. The discussion drifted every now and then, but it was good to take different directions.
We talked about using the Bible as a history textbook, and why it is not taught from [as a religious text] in our school. Then someone brought up what we all thought of origins--how we came to be here. Was God's hand in it all the way, or did He simply start the process, or did God have anything to do with it at all?
We did realize that we need a variety of different opinions next time though. We were all Chritsians and pretty much believed the same sort of things. but we will work on that, getting non-believers there and people with differing views.
[Editor's note: this is a common problem--IDEA Clubs thrive when there are many different viewpoints being tossed around, and are not as much fun, or effective when everyone just comes and agrees! Great work Ryan for getting this first meeting going, and we are sure you'll have no trouble finding people of different viewpoints to come and contribute at meetings as your club goes on!]
Ryan is trying to start this club at his public high school. In trying to start this club, Ryan has being doing some research regarding the legality of IDEA Clubs promoting intelligent design in a public school having "equal access" to school facilities. Here are some of his findings:
The Equal Access Act could be helpful in starting a club at another school. [the following is from the US Department of Education Website at http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html:]
THE EQUAL ACCESS ACT
The Equal Access Act is designed to ensure that, consistent with the First Amendment, student religious activities are accorded the same access to public school facilities as are student secular activies. Based on decisions of the Federal courst, as well as its interpretations of the Act, the Department of Justice has advised that the Act should be interpreted as providing, among other things, that:
General provisions: Student religious groups at public secondary schools have the same right of access to school facilities as is enjoyed by other comparable student groups. Under the Equal Access Act, a school receiving Federal funds that allows one or more student noncurriculum-related clubs to meet on its premises during noninstructional time may not refuse access to student religious groups.
Prayer services and worship excercise covered: A meeting, as defined and protected by the Equal Access Act, may include a prayer service, Bible reading, or other worship exercise.
Equal access to means of publicizing meetings: A school receiving Federal funds must allow student groups meeting under the Act to use the school media -- including the public address system, the school newspaper, and the school bulletin board -- to announce their meetings on the same terms as other noncurriculum-related student groups are allowed to use the school media. Any policy concerning the use of school media must be applied to all noncurriculum-related student groups in a nondiscriminatory matter. Schools, however, may inform students that certain gruops are not school sponsored.
Lunch-time and recess covered: A school creates a limited open forum under the Equal Access Act, triggering equal access rights for religious groups, when it allows students to meet during their lunch periods or other noninstructional time during the school day, as well as when it allows students to meet before and after the school day.
[Editor's Note: Ryan has done some good homework here, as he is our first high school student to try to start an IDEA Club at his public high school. IDEA Clubs may not be strictly religious in nature, however we hope that students trying to start IDEA Clubs or any types of clubs at their public schools might find the above information helpful, and that their clubs may enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them under our Constitution and the Equal Access Act.]