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School Reverses Course After Threatening to Boot Student From Honor Society Over Church Service Hours

"There’s no honor in penalizing an honors student’s community service to children just because it happens to be faith-based."

A school is reportedly threatening to kick a 17-year-old student out of the National Honor Society after she completed required community service at a local church rather than a secular organization.

The young woman, who is currently remaining anonymous, is hitting back, claiming she's the victim of religious discrimination. The senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, has filed a federal lawsuit to address the matter.

The student's issues began in the fall of 2011, when she submitted her service hours for official membership in the National Honor Society, FOX News' Todd Starnes reports. In order to be retain membership, high school students must complete 12 hours, minimum, of service.

This particular student had 46 hours of service -- far exceeding the minimum requirement needed for membership. These hours were served at "Kid Quest," a Sunday school program at the teen's church. However, when she logged these hours, a faculty adviser said that they would not count, as they were conducted at a church and, thus, violated district policy.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group, will be representing the student in her legal battle against the district. According to the organization, the Fairfax County School Board’s Faith-Based Service Policy does, indeed, have a solid stance on credit hours. The policy reads that faith-based volunteer hours "must have a secular purpose…and may not include preparation or participation in the performance of religious services."

Additionally, the National Honor Society seems to have a nuanced definition of faith-based service and it defers to individual school boards to make final credit-based decisions.

"In essence, she was targeted and discriminated against solely because of the religious nature of her community service work,” said Matt Sharp, a lawyer with the ADF. "There’s no honor in penalizing an honors student’s community service to children just because it happens to be faith-based."

Sharp went on to say that this sort of community service should be praised and encouraged and said that his client is being subjected to "unconstitutional discrimination."

In a press release that was disseminated by the ADF, the following explanation of the student's activities is given:

The student performed the same types of community service activities with children for which other National Honor Society students receive credit: playing games, singing songs, teaching lessons, working on crafts, and providing mentoring and guidance to children from different nationalities, children with behavioral problems, children with special needs, and children in abusive family situations.

In order to ensure that her name is not removed from the honor society's roster, the student must make up the 12 hours at a secular service institution (along with four additional hours). The school district currently has no comment on the matter.

Update: The school district has decided to reverse its decision to remove the student from the National Honor Society. The decision comes just hours after ADF filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination.

(H/T: FOX News)

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