Westside School District v. Mergens

Westside School District V. Mergens

Westside School District v. Mergens

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Description:
Westside School District v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990), was a case involving a school district's ability to hold classes on Bible study after school.

Background

Westside High School, in District 66, located in Omaha Nebraska, refused to let a group of students wishing to form a Christian Bible Study Club within their school. Bridget Mergens is the name of the student who initiated the process to start the club. She was a senior at the time. It was decided that the club could not take place because they would not allow a staff member to sponsor it (staff sponsoring was required or the club meetings could not take place at the school). The students argued that the district's decision was in violation of the Equal Access Act requiring that groups seeking to express “religious, political, philosophical, or other content” messages not be denied the ability to form clubs.

Decision

In an 8-1 decision the Supreme Court held that the club could hold their meetings, however their sponsor could not be paid; this would truly be an endorsement of religion.

The school's situation was placed under the Equal Access Act because it allowed other ‘limited open forums’. The Lemon Test is used to ensure that the Equal Access Act is constitutional.


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