DOE has change of heart after first denying classroom space to Christian group
EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In February, Child Evangelism Fellowship asked Ewa School for permission to use a classroom during after school hours.
The international Christian organization wanted to hold once-a-week activities for elementary-age children called the Good News Club, in which kids learn life lessons through Bible stories.
But school officials denied the request, saying no classrooms or meeting rooms were available because of the school's own after school programs, teacher meetings, and other activities.
Child Evangelism's lawyer Mat Staver, founder of the national firm Liberty Counsel, found that hard to believe.
"We looked at the maps and looked at the places where these clubs can meet and where other clubs meet and there was plenty of room," he said.
So Child Evangelism and Liberty Counsel sent the complex area superintendent an appeal letter.
Matt Walton, Child Evangelism's state coordinator, said the letter was the "last resort."
"According to the regulations there's the principal's decision, then there's the Complex Area Superintendent's decision, then that's pretty much it."
Staver added, "We were prepared to go to court. Fortunately, we didn't have to."
After getting the Liberty Council appeal letter, the school's principal found a classroom for the Good News Group.
Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said public use of school facilities can't interfere with a school's operations.
Good News Groups are held right after school, when lots of children are still on campus.
"Our hope is that they begin to understand from our perspective that they are made on purpose and with a purpose, and that somebody loves them unconditionally. That hopefully will help them make better choices in the life in the future," Walton said.
On the DOE's initial refusal, Walton added, "I really try to give the benefit of the doubt in every situation and just hope that it was just a misunderstanding as far as what the law actually says."
There are now nine Good News Groups using public school classrooms on Oahu, Maui and Kauai. Next Friday will be the first meeting at Ewa School.
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