The following question appeared on my Religion and the Constitution
exam in 2006.
(Suggested time: 60 minutes) (50 points out of 150 total exam points)
Granger Elementary School is a public school located
in the Springdale School District. Students in grades
kindergarten through fifth grade attend the school. Granger
Elementary has a Facilities Use Policy which permits community-based
nonprofit organizations to use school facilities after the end of the
official school day if those facilities are not needed for school
purposes. The school also permits community organizations to
distribute literature to students about afterschool educational and
recreational programs suitable for elementary school students through
the use of the intraschool mail system.
The school day officially ends at 2:55 p.m. when
school is dismissed, but the school sponsors various extracurricular
activities after that hour including an afterschool day care program,
music and drama instruction and several athletic activities. The
Facilities Use Policy allows community organizations to use the school
building at the same time as these school-sponsored extracurricular
activities on a space available basis. Last year, the Child
Worship Club (CWC) of Springdale sought permission to use the Granger
Elementary School cafeteria for meetings of the CWC each Wednesday
afternoon from 3 to 4 during the school year. No other community
organization currently utilizes space in the school building during
that time period.
The stated objectives of the Child Worship Club
include cultivating self-esteem, character, and morals in children, and
instructing children to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. A CWC
brochure distributed to students via the intraschool mail system states:
The Child Worship Club is designed to serve boys and girls in grades
one through five through Bible-oriented and character building learning
and moral object lessons, as well as recreational activities.
Club activities include a snack, singing, playing learning games,
memorizing Bible verses, listening to a Bible lesson and praying.
To participate in the CWC, a child must provide a signed permission
slip from a parent.
Michael Morgan (MM), the principal of Granger
Elementary, granted the request of the CWC to use the school cafeteria
for its meetings. To avoid disruption of the regular school
dismissal procedures, he arranged for students enrolled in the Club to
gather in a designated waiting area immediately inside the entrance to
the school building. CWC leaders meet Club participants at the
waiting area and accompany them to the school cafeteria for the Club
meeting. The adult leaders of the CWC are two retired teachers
who taught for many years at Granger Elementary School before retiring
several years ago and becoming active in the CWC of Springdale.
During its first year of operation, 14 students signed up to
participate in the CWC including 5 students in the first grade, 4 in
the second grade, 3 in the third grade and 2 in the fourth grade.
The Granger Elementary School cafeteria is a large
space filled with tables and chairs, a food preparation and storage
area and a food service area. A partition separates one corner of
the cafeteria into a semi-private eating area. The partition is a
half wall so that persons seated in the semi-private area cannot be
seen, but can be heard by other occupants of the cafeteria. The
CWC sought permission to use the semi-private area where it would be
possible to have some privacy during its meetings, but also to provide
students with a snack through the use of the cafeteria
facilities. Before permitting the CWC to use the school
cafeteria, MM spoke with the teachers who operate the afterschool day
care program. On a typical day, approximately 50 students are
enrolled in the day care program. At 3:30 each afternoon,
students in the day care program use the school cafeteria to eat a
snack. The principal was concerned that the simultaneous use of
the cafeteria by the day care program and the CWC would create a
conflict. The teachers running the afterschool day care program
assured the principal that they used only the main cafeteria area and
not the semi-private area so both programs could use the cafeteria
Linda Lerner (LL) is the parent of a second grade
student at Granger Elementary. Her child participates in the
afterschool day care program and he has told her that each Wednesday he
hears Bible verses and Christian prayers while eating his snack in the
school cafeteria. LL has filed suit challenging the use of the
school cafeteria for meetings of the Child Worship Club as a violation
of the Establishment Clause.
You are a law clerk to the judge assigned to the
case. The judge has asked you to write an analysis of the
Establishment Clause arguments available to LL in challenging the use
of the Granger Elementary School cafeteria by the Child Worship Club as
well as the arguments available to the Springdale School District in
defending its right to permit use of the cafeteria by the CWC.