Church-State Battle Goes to Supreme Court

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court justices debated a closely watched church-state dispute Wednesday, questioning what constitutes religious worship in considering whether a Christian children's group may gather at a public school after class.

Thomas Marcelle, lawyer for the Good News Club -- which aims to educate children on Christian moral values through Bible study, songs and games B told the justices the group is being unfairly denied access to the lone public school building in tiny Milford, N.Y.

But Frank Miller, lawyer for the Milford Central School District, argued that the club's weekly meetings amounted to religious worship and as such could be banned by the district, just as it also bans partisan political and commercial activity. "This is a limited open forum," Miller said of the school. "We have attempted to exclude the subject matter of religion."

"This is a free-speech case," Marcelle countered. "We're not asking for special access, just equal access."

Questioning by the justices focused on whether the activities of the Good News Club constituted religious worship. "Teaching Scripture, teaching morality, I think it's a great distortion to call that religious worship even if you do throw in a prayer or two," Justice Antonin Scalia said. …