Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98, 47 (2001)

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98

OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

GOOD NEWS CLUB et al. v. MILFORD CENTRAL SCHOOL

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit

No. 99-2036. Argued February 28, 2001—Decided June 11, 2001

Under New York law, respondent Milford Central School (Milford) enacted a policy authorizing district residents to use its building after school for, among other things, (1) instruction in education, learning, or the arts and (2) social, civic, recreational, and entertainment uses pertaining to the community welfare. Stephen and Darleen Fournier, district residents eligible to use the school's facilities upon approval of their proposed use, are sponsors of the Good News Club, a private Christian organization for children ages 6 to 12. Pursuant to Milford's policy, they submitted a request to hold the Club's weekly afterschool meetings in the school. Milford denied the request on the ground that the proposed use—to sing songs, hear Bible lessons, memorize scripture, and pray—was the equivalent of religious worship prohibited by the community use policy. Petitioners (collectively, the Club), filed suit under 42 U. S. C. 1983, alleging, inter alia, that the denial of the Club's application violated its free speech rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court ultimately granted Milford summary judgment, finding the Club's subject matter to be religious in nature, not merely a discussion of secular matters from a religious perspective that Milford otherwise permits. Because the school had not allowed other groups providing religious instruction to use its limited public forum, the court held that it could deny the Club access without engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. In affirming, the Second Circuit rejected the Club's contention that Milford's restriction was unreasonable, and held that, because the Club's subject matter was quintessentially religious and its activities fell outside the bounds of pure moral and character development, Milford's policy was constitutional subject discrimination, not unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

Held:

1. Milford violated the Club's free speech rights when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school. Pp. 106-112.

(a) Because the parties so agree, this Court assumes that Milford operates a limited public forum. A State establishing such a forum is not required to and does not allow persons to engage in every type of

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