By: Michelle K. Camp, Esq.
One seemingly normal day in 1999, I found myself standing in front of a locked door. It wasn’t just any door: this was the door to the classroom where my high school’s Christian club met for lunch. I was naïve at the time, and I assumed it must be a mistake.
“Surely the teacher just forgot to leave the room open,” I thought.
However, I soon learned it was not a mistake. Our principal had decided it was “against the separation of church and state” to allow a religious club to meet on campus. I was so bummed. I considered myself a pretty strong Christian, but public school was hard and it was nice to have that little respite every week with some like-minded students.
That night, I told a few pastors at my church what had happened. They told me the principal was wrong and pointed me to the Equal Access Act. The Equal Access Act essentially states that if a public school allows secular extra-curricular clubs to meet on campus, they must allow religious clubs to meet as well. In other words, it was not against the law for the principal to allow our Christian club to meet on campus. In fact, it was actually against the law for him to refuse to allow our club to meet. I had never heard of the Equal Access Act, and I assumed the principal must not have known about it either.
Armed with a copy of the Act and some notes, I made a plan to meet with the principal. Although I’ve grown out of it over the years, as a teenager I was very shy, and I hated confrontation. I was so nervous and scared, but I really wanted our club back. I fully expected him to say something along the lines of “Oh my goodness, you’re right! I’m so sorry. You can start meeting again right away!” I mean, I was giving him a copy of the actual law. What more could he need?
But I was wrong.
He immediately shot me down, and sent me on my way. When I told the pastors at my church about the meeting, they connected me with a lawyer. The lawyer sent a letter to the principal, and shortly afterward we had our Christian club back—with greater protection of our rights than we had before. I was amazed at the power the same words had when they came from a lawyer instead of just from me.
From that experience, I learned first-hand how important it is to have lawyers in our society who will stand up for the rights of Christians.
When I heard about the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, I knew instantly that it was for me.
The Blackstone Legal Fellowship is a lifelong leadership development program that includes three weeks of legal seminars and a unique six-week summer internship. The program trains and equips Christian law students to enter their careers armed with the knowledge and resources they need to be able to engage our legal culture and defend our constitutional rights. I knew it would provide me with the tools I needed to be able to defend fellow Christians who found themselves in a place like me: in front of a locked door that should never have been closed.
Fast-forward to 2017, and it is clear that we need Christian lawyers, trained in the Constitution, now more than ever. Christian students are facing an increasing level of censorship and punishment for expressing their faith at their schools, Christian business owners are increasingly being forced to violate their conscience or face fines or jail time, and recently the American Bar Association amended its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to restrict lawyers’ speech in a way that will disproportionately impact Christian attorneys to the extent those rules are adopted by state bar associations. We need more Christian attorneys in positions of influence in our legal system to protect the rights of Christians everywhere.
Michelle K. Camp, Esq. is a Blackstone Fellow from the Class of 2007. She was a litigation associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for seven years and is currently a career development attorney-advisor for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship.
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