The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005)

Freedom of Religion

What did the Rehnquist Court say with respect to Bible clubs in public schools?

The Court ruled in Westside Community Board of Education v. Mergens (1990) that an Omaha, Nebraska, public school district violated the Equal Access Act when it prohibited high school student Bridgette Mergens from forming a student Bible club. The school allowed other student clubs, such as a scuba diving club and chess club, to meet at school during noninstructional time. The Court determined that under the 1984 federal Equal Access Act, schools cannot discriminate against student clubs based on their religious or philosophical viewpoints. The school board had argued that it prohibited giving official recognition to the student Bible club because it did not want to violate the Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Equal Access Act did not violate the Establishment Clause. “We think that secondary school students are mature enough and are likely to understand that a school does not endorse or support student speech that it merely permits on a nondiscriminatory basis,” the Court wrote.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App