“`They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:19)
Joy El was within weeks of having our 50-year ministry to school children completely shut down. We were borrowing buses to transport thousands of children for released time educational programs because the Pennsylvania State Police had grounded our own buses claiming violations of safety regulations; even though their buses met all safety requirements of non-school-owned transportation.
Joy El volunteers were forced to borrow buses to continue the ministry and were running out of time and resources to continue doing so.
But just this week, thanks to a favorable ruling by a Federal District Judge, Joy El Ministries can now continue to have its volunteer drivers and buses back on the road.
“After nearly a half-century of transporting children safely to this Christian ministry, Joy El was suddenly subjected to regulations that apply only to school buses owned by or under contract with school districts,” says David Crossett of the Smith Law Group, the lead attorney representing Joy El in the case. “The Judge’s ruling allows Joy El to continue their operations unimpeded until this litigation is finally resolved.”
Earlier this year Pennsylvania State Police grounded the ministry’s buses, claiming that our vehicles need to meet all the regulations applicable to official school buses, which are specially equipped to get drivers’ attention as students are picked up and dropped off along the road. Ironically, state police had told Joy El previously that our buses could not have certain school bus features or purport to be school buses.
“The State Police even called some schools and told them our buses had failed inspection. We have an excellent safety record,” said Aaron Ziebarth of Joy El. “A Federal Judge confirmed that we meet every safety regulation that legally applies in a situation like ours.”
“We are pleased to see the Judge’s ruling, which will prevent continued governmental overreach that could have crippled this ministry,” said Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center. “This ruling not only benefits Joy El and the children they serve, but we all benefit when our freedoms are protected.”
Joy El serves over 3,000 children in Pennsylvania every week through released time educational programming. Children are picked up from school for a free, once-a-week religious education off school premises.
“We are grateful to the many donors and sponsors who have come through during our time of need—but we are also relieved to be able to get our own fleet of buses back out on the road,” stated Ziebarth.
Thank you to The Smith Law Group, a full-service law firm in Berks County that serves central Pennsylvania, for their leadership on this case. Also involved was the Independence Law Center, a pro bono law firm affiliated with PA Family Institute, and Alliance Defending Freedom.