Protest Focuses on Ban

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A California affiliate of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group, held a protest Wednesday outside the Saddleback Valley Unified School District headquarters, decrying the district's decision to ban service clubs in order to avoid recognizing a Christian group.

"It's outrageous," said state Sen. Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), who called on school board members to reverse the decision or step down. Morrow said he got involved in the issue because he believes the board's actions are indefensible. "We're talking about discriminating on the basis of belief."

Thirty people participated in the protest, organized by the Capital Resource Institute, a Sacramento-based Christian group. Leaders of secular service clubs joined the group of Christian teenagers holding Bibles in criticizing school officials, saying the schools were setting a bad example by punishing all students to avoid controversies.

Earlier this month, the district announced that it would no longer recognize 29 service clubs at four high schools, from the Key Club to Students Against Drunk Driving. Officials imposed the ban after a state appellate court ruled that if the district allowed service clubs, it would also have to recognize a Christian club and possibly other extracurricular clubs.

Rather than do that, district officials opted to disband service clubs. The groups will still be able to meet but not during school hours. Nor will they be able to advertise in the school bulletin or put posters up on campus.

Many students said this will in effect kill their service groups, because teenagers are busy with other after-school activities, such as athletics and homework.

Acting Supt. William Manahan said the decision is final. "We're very sorry and regretful," he said. "But the policy is in place."

Students and parents, however, said they plan to continue their protests until district officials change their minds.

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