Joy El Ministries was within weeks of having their 50-year ministry to school children completely shut down. The Pennsylvania State Police had grounded their buses that were used to pick up school kids for a free, once-a-week religious education off school premises; 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.

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 their 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 even told Joy El that its 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 pride ourselves on safety,” said Aaron Ziebarth of Joy El ministries. “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 Ministries serves over 3,000 children in Pennsylvania every week through released time educational programming.

“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.

The Independence Law Center, the pro-bono legal ministry of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, is grateful for their partnership with the Smith Law Group in this matter. For more information on how the Independence Law Center advances religious liberty or to support our work, visit or call 717-657-4990.