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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The Equal Access Act (EAA) is a federal law enacted to permit organized groups of high school students to meet in schools during noninstructional time, periods when classes are not scheduled so that non-curriculum-related clubs can gather. The EAA was designed to remedy situations in which religious speech had been excluded from schools as a form of impermissible viewpoint discrimination. In Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, the Supreme Court upheld the EAA. This chapter covers the situation that existed before the EAA was enacted; the EAA itself; Mergens and later judicial developments; and the meaning of Mergens and its progeny. To date, it appears that the EAA has achieved its goal of granting equal access to religious speech even as it has been applied in ways beyond what its authors likely intended by including LGBT groups and others.

Keywords: Equal Access Act, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, religious speech, free speech, student clubs, LGBT clubs, viewpoint discrimination

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