Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001)

The Supreme Court considered two questions: (1) whether Milford Central School in New York State violated the free speech rights of the Good News Club, a private Christian organization for children, when it excluded the club from meeting after hours at the school, and (2) whether any such violation was justified by Milford’s concern that permitting the club’s activities would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court concluded that Milford’s restriction did violate the club’s free speech rights and that no Establishment Clause concern justified that violation. As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the Court’s opinion, “When Milford denied the Good News Club access to the school’s limited public forum on the ground that the Club was religious in nature, it discriminated against the Club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

The Court also rejected Milford’s Establishment Clause concern as justification for their exclusion of the club, noting that it is unlikely that elementary schoolchildren would perceive Milford’s allowance of the club as endorsing it, and because children could not participate in the club without the written permission of their parents, it was unlikely that they would have felt coerced to participate in its religious activities.