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CNN Today

Supreme Court Considers Separation of Church of State in Public Schools

Aired February 27, 2001 - 4:42 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The issue of separation between church and state will be considered by the Supreme Court tomorrow. CNN's Charles Bierbauer tells us the high court is turning its attention to an appeal by a so-called Good News clubs to hold religious-themed meetings in a public school after regular school hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWD (singing): Good news, that what we're singing about. Good news...

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not been good news so far for the Good News Club, barred from after-school meetings at Milford Central School in New York State because the Constitution says government shall establish no religion.

REV. STEPHEN FOURNIER, COMMUNITY BIBLE CHURCH: I don't want the endorsement of the school. I don't want their favoritism. I just want to use space.

PETER LIVSHIN, CENTRAL SUPERINTENDENT: One of the tenets is that you have to accept Jesus as your lord and savior. Now, he may not say that, but the materials that they use clearly state those points of view.

BIERBAUER: It's a First Amendment question of whether the club for 6- to 12-year-olds amounts to prohibited religious instruction on government property. Reverend Fournier says the club's songs and Bible stories only use a religious viewpoint to teach moral values, like the 4-H club or Girl Scouts.

FOURNIER: I've had one boy tell me that he didn't believe in God at all, that he was just there for the candy, and that was fine with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cinderella, my fan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cinderella, my lorgnette.

BIERBAUER: The school's community use policy creates a limited public forum for after-school activities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): And the world will open its arms to me.

BIERBAUER: No problem for the high school's rehearsal of "Cinderella." There are more than 2,000 Good News Clubs across the U.S., affiliated with the Child Evangelism Fellowship. While the Appeals Court in New York denied such clubs access to schools, another court in Missouri said club access would not violate the separation of church and state.

Milford is a small town in central New York and both the reverend and the superintendent say this is a friendly disagreement"

LIVSHIN: We've said many times, both of us, let the chips fall where they may on this issue.

BIERBAUER (on camera): The chips will fall widely, though, since the justices' opinion later this year will set national guidelines for when religious organizations may or may not use school facilities.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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