Justice John Paul Stevens

The Decision (Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 1990 - Part Two)

1. The Equal Access Act of 1984 prohibited any public school which permitted “non-curricular” clubs to meet on school property from picking and choosing which clubs they allowed based on ideologies or beliefs. The trick was figuring out what counted as “non-curricular.”

2. Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school. 

3. The school said no, arguing that organizations like Chess Club and Scuba Club were essentially (if not directly) curriculum-related in that they were extensions of the sorts of things the school promoted as a whole, and thus inadequate to trigger the requirements of the act. Bridget didn’t buy it.  

Eventually, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. You probably won't be surprised how it turned out. 

Bridget Wants A Bible Club (Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 1990 - Part One)

Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school. They’d read and discuss the Bible, pray together, and enjoy what those on the inside call “fellowship.” Membership would be open to anyone, however, regardless of their beliefs – because, you know… school.  

The school said no. That was a mistake. 

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