Evers, Friess Lake School District violate private school’s right to free exercise of religion
April 12, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – On behalf of a private school and the parents of three children who attend the school, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has filed a lawsuit against Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and Friess Lake School District for unconstitutionally declaring “who or what is Catholic.” In unilaterally deciding that our client, St. Augustine School, is affiliated with a school operated by the Archdiocese – even though it is clearly an “independent” school – Superintendent Evers is denying three children at St. Augustine the transportation rights that they are entitled to under state law.
St. Augustine School is an independent religious school that aligns its teachings to the Catholic faith. It is operated by its independent board of directors and according to its own articles of incorporation and by-laws.
Despite the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese confirming in writing that St. Augustine is not affiliated with the Archdiocese, Friess Lake and Superintendent Tony Evers disagree.
Based upon this determination, Superintendent Evers and Friess Lake have denied St. Augustine the transportation attendance area it is entitled to under state law. In turn, this denies transportation rights to three children who live in the Friess Lake School District and attend St. Augustine.
CJ Szafir, WILL Vice President of Policy, commented, “The government is taking upon itself to make decisions about religious faith which are clearly excessive entanglement of church and state. Superintendent Evers is creating an incredibly disturbing precedent that needs to be stopped.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has previously stated that it would be “repugnant to the Constitution” for the State to conduct a detailed inquiry of religious schools and to make “the determination of who and what is Catholic.”
The lawsuit, filed in Washington County Circuit Court last Friday, alleges violations of the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.