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School district discriminates against religious students with extracurricular ban: lawsuit

Parents of parochial school students in Pennsylvania are suing their public school district for allegedly violating their religious rights by refusing to allow their children to participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities.

Parents of two Centre County parochial school students filed a lawsuit on July 10 with the aid of the Religious Rights Foundation of Pennsylvania and the Thomas More Society against the State College Area School District (SCASD), according to a press release from the Thomas More Society.

The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleges that SCASD and its board violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by barring students at religious schools from activities at public schools.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to allow students at parochial schools to participate in such activities.

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Thomas More Society special counsel Thomas Breth said in a statement provided to Fox News Digital that the district’s non-discrimination policy permits any student in the district – including charter school students and homeschoolers – to participate in its educational programs.

Breth said the school district is attempting to justify its actions by claiming that including parochial school students in such programs and activities would detract from the students who regularly attend district area schools.

“[T]he board has consistently allowed home-school students and those attending charter schools to take part in the district’s more than 100 extracurricular activities and classes, including athletic teams and Advanced Placement courses,” Breth wrote.

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Campus of Penn State University

State College, Pennsylvania, is the home of Penn State University. (Google Maps)

“The school district has denied those same opportunities to students attending religious schools, based solely on their religious identity. That forces parochial school students to choose between their religious beliefs and the right to participate in extracurricular activities and advanced classes,” he added.

Breth said that similar cases have been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ruled against denying students services based on religious affiliation.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that such denials can be justified only by a state interest of the highest order,” Breth said. “That is certainly not the case in the State College Area School District.”

U.S. Constitution with gavel and US flag

The lawsuit alleges that SCASD and its board violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by barring students at religious schools from activities at public schools. (iStock)

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“Per our customary practice, the State College Area School District administration does not comment on pending litigation,” a spokesperson for SCASD told Fox News Digital.

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