by Steven Ertelt
February 14, 2008
Rapid City, SD (LifeNews.com) — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have filed a lawsuit for a pro-life group against the Rapid City Area School District after it prevented the organization from using public-access space. ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of Citizens for Life after officials twice denied the pro-life group’s requests to use school facilities for an after-school meeting.
According to the law firm, school district policy allows other community groups to use the facilities for similar meetings but expressly forbids religious purposes.
It also allows school officials to choose which political groups may use the facilities, which it considers a discriminatory policy.
Pro-life groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs. They have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America, said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Byron Babione.
He added, The equal access rights of Citizens for Life must be honored regardless of whether school district officials agree with the groups message.
Babione said the South Dakota school district has a long policy of denying pro-life advocates access.
In August 2006, Citizens for Life President Allen Carlson requested permission for the group to meet at Dakota Middle Schools auditorium to host a pro-life speaker. Two months later, the school denied Carlsons request without providing a reason.
In June 2007, Carlson again applied to the school district on behalf of Citizens for Life to use the schools auditorium to host another pro-life discussion. School district officials told Carlson that the group would not be able to use the auditorium because the groups message was too controversial. School district officials refused to state the reason in writing.
On three occasions, ADF attorneys requested copies of public records, including records showing which community groups the school district has allowed to use its facilities. School officials denied that they keep such records and have yet to fully respond to the request.
School officials are not permitted to engage in viewpoint discrimination, nor can they continue to stonewall this group, said ADF-allied attorney Stephen Wesolick, who is also representing Citizens for Life.
The pro-life law firm has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Western Division and the case is Citizens for Life v. Rapid City Area School District.
Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund – https://www.alliancedefensefund.org