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Wantagh school district approves sophomore Liz Loverde's Christian faith-based club

Liz Loverde, of Wantagh, speaks during a press

Liz Loverde, of Wantagh, speaks during a press conference after being denied the right to form, "Dare to Believe," a Christian club at Wantagh High School, held at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Wantagh school district will permit a high school sophomore to form a Christian faith-based club after the student asserted school officials were denying her request.

School officials said Monday they never denied the application submitted in September by Liz Loverde, 15, and that it typically takes weeks to process requests for clubs at Wantagh High School.

"Despite media reports to the contrary, no one in administration at any level denied this opportunity to any of the clubs, including Dare to Believe," Wantagh school Superintendent Maureen Goldberg said in a statement, referring to the Christian faith-based club. "No school administrator, at any level attempted to deter the application and approval process from proceeding."

Loverde's case was taken up by the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, a conservative religious freedom group that said last week it would take legal action unless the district approved the club by this week. "We are glad the school district has announced that it is doing the right thing by recognizing Liz Loverde's club Dare to Believe," said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with Liberty Institute.

"It took a lot of courage for a 15-year-old girl to come forward," he said in a statement. "It is always a scary position for students to take a stand against . . . school authorities who hold significant power over their everyday lives."

Loverde told reporters last week that her high school principal told her in September that forming a faith-based club would be illegal. Denying such a club would violate the Equal Access Act of 1984, Dys said.

Goldberg said Monday that the district never violated the law, and had even allowed Loverde's group and others to meet informally during the application process.

Dys disputed Goldberg's account of events. "Perhaps the school principal has chosen to forget telling this 15-year-old young lady that Christian clubs are illegal at school," he said.

Wantagh's board of education approved Loverde's club and six others Thursday night.

In another case involving a Christian faith-based club, Three Village school officials have twice denied a request to start one at Ward Melville High School during the past year -- and twice reversed themselves following pressure from the Liberty Institute.

Students United in Faith, led by senior John Raney, was allowed to start operating again last month.

Loverde said the group will study the Bible, help at soup kitchens, sing in nursing homes, organize toy drives and raise money for charity.

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