Document Type

Article

Abstract

After the Supreme Court held in Widmar v. Vincent that state universities could not constitutionally deny religious groups access to facilities generally available to student groups, a number of school districts authored access policies that were designed to create “limited public forums.” These policies delineated the categories of activities for which school property could be used, and indicated that religious activities were not among them. In Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, however, the Supreme Court struck a blow to the notion that school districts could employ the limited public forum approach to exclude religious activities from their facilities. There, a unanimous Court held that once a school district had allowed access to its facilities for discussions relating to family issues and child rearing, its exclusion of a group seeking to discuss such issues from a religious standpoint violated that group's free speech rights. Last Term, in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the Court went further, holding that once a school has opened its doors to activities relating to character development, even the prohibition of activities that involve religious instruction amounts to viewpoint discrimination. The Court's Good News decision indicates that the limited public forum doctrine has essentially run its course as a rationale for a school's exclusion of religious activities from its facilities, and demonstrates the need for a more fact-intensive, context-specific endorsement test to determine when the Establishment Clause justifies such exclusions.