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Lindenhurst school district settles Bible club lawsuit

Lindenhurst Union Free School District has settled a lawsuit filed by a student who alleged that officials had violated his civil rights by refusing to let him form a Bible club.

The district, which denied the allegation, agreed to pay the high school student, identified in court papers only as "A.Q.," nominal damages of $1.

The district also paid $2,500 for legal expenses to the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian organization that sued the school district on the student's behalf.

In March, a month after the lawsuit was filed, Lindenhurst High School recognized the student-led Bible club, which currently has about 30 members, according to a district spokeswoman.

In exchange, the student and his attorney in August dropped the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip.

In the lawsuit, the student alleged that school officials discriminated against his Bible club by forcing the club to apply for facility access as a community organization, which nonreligious clubs at the high school didn't have to do.

The district superintendent and the high school principal declined to comment and referred all questions to the district's attorneys, Steven C. Stern of Westbury, and Gene Barnosky of Melville.

Barnosky said when the student filed his club application in the fall of 2008, the student requested a faculty adviser, a request Barnosky said the district was unable to honor because schools are not permitted to use public money for religious purposes. At some point, he said, the district told the student it would pay a faculty member to monitor the meeting to ensure safety.

"They [school officials] didn't hear anything for a period of months," said Barnosky, until the student filed the lawsuit.

David Cortman, attorney for the student, said the pupil repeatedly asked the school to grant the Bible club official status between October 2008 and February, when he filed the lawsuit.

"He was told that would violate the separation of church and state," Cortman said.

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