CPS hires legal group

Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group, will evaluate the Conway Public Schools' equal-access policies on visitations during school lunches for free, superintendent Greg Murry said Friday.

 

The district reached out Friday to Liberty Institute, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America," according to a news release and General Council Jeff Mateer. The district's move comes after the district received letter, dated Oct. 26, from Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for separation of state and church nationwide.

Liberty Institute will also be speak for the district on this issue from now on, Murry and Mateer said. Murry referred questions to Liberty Institute when asked how he decided to hire the group.

"What we do is advise local governments, school districts, counties, even states on religious liberty matters," Mateer said. "That's what we are here for is to help people like Conway Public Schools."

Mateer said in a news release the district retained the institute "to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the district on or before Feb. 12, 2013." The group will make a report that will go first to the superintendent and then the school board, he said.

The investigation is needed, officials have said, because the Foundation sent a "threatening" letter in October that said the district is in “constitutional violation” by allowing youth ministers to visit students who are in their church during lunchtime. The Foundation sends thousands of similar letters and is not always correct about what is legal, Mateer said. Schools can be overwhelmed, he said.

Murry has said he wants to make sure the district is within the law. The district has told ministers and others not to visit schoolchildren during lunch. The suspension is temporary, Murry said previously.

 "The district respects the religious liberty of all students and citizens and will work diligently to follow the Constitution and take the appropriate steps necessary to investigate this issue further and follow the law," Murry said in the release.

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Earlier version:

Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group, will assist Conway Public Schools in evaluating the district's equal access policies on visitations during school lunches for free.

The move to hire outside help from Liberty Institute comes after the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for separation of church and state nationwide.

Liberty Institute will also be the spokespersons for the district on this issue from now on, superintendent Greg Murry said.

According to a news release Friday, the institute is "dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena."

Murry referred questions to the group when asked how he decided to hire Liberty Institute.

Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for the group, said the district retained the institute "to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the district on or before Feb. 12, 2013."

That investigation is needed, officials have said, because the Foundation sent a "threatening" letter in October that said the district is in “constitutional violation” by allowing youth ministers to visit students who are in their church during lunchtime.

The district has since told ministers and others not to visit schoolchildren during lunch.

"The district respects the religious liberty of all students and citizens and will work diligently to follow the Constitution and take the appropriate steps necessary to investigate this issue further and follow the law," Murry said in the release.

 

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