School district takes church money for sponsorship, reneges on obligations

 May 28, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A school district in Florida accepted funding from a local church, and in return promised a sponsorship status that included the church's name on a banner on campus.

Now the district apparently has reneged, and a legal team is investigating.

It is Liberty Counsel that confirms it has written to officials with the Broward County Public Schools over their discrimination against Cooper City Church.

The district, the report said, "unconstitutionally" removed the church’s sponsorship sign from Cooper City High School while keeping other community sponsor signs on display on campus.

The church wants the sign reinstated, and treatment equal to other sponsors.

The district, so far, has refused to respond after its "Office of Legislative Affairs" ordered the sign killed.

The district's action, explained Liberty Counsel, "violates the First Amendment and its Free Speech, Free Exercise of Religion, and Establishment Clauses, as well as both Florida law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent."

The original deal came about in 2023 when Cooper City Church reached an agreement with the school over its "Partners in Education Sponsorship" program.

As a "Gold Level" sponsor, the church was supposed to be acknowledged on a banner, the school website and in the yearbook. Also during home games.

"Contrary to the agreement, the church is also not currently listed on the school’s website as a partner or sponsor, and it is unclear whether all other sponsorship benefits have been canceled," Liberty Counsel said.

The legal team explained in its letter to the school the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a church cannot be deprived of a benefit available to others "solely on account of religious identity," as that violates the Constitution.

In fact, the court also has ruled that "when government does not speak for itself, it may not exclude speech based on 'religious viewpoint'" because doing that is "impermissible viewpoint discrimination."

"The church has the right to become a community sponsor within the district’s Partners in Education sponsorship program, without giving up its religious identity or beliefs," the legal team explained.

The church is seeking restoration of the sponsorship acknowledgement, observation of all other "Gold" sponsorship requirements and removal of the discriminatory prohibition in the school's practices.

The report said the church's contribution to the district was $1,000.

And the legal team told the district it was prepared for "further proceedings" should the dispute remain unresolved.

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