South Dakota School District Allows Pro-Life Advocates to Use Building for Events

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 18, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota School District Allows Pro-Life Advocates to Use Building for Events

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 18
, 2008

Rapid City, SD (LifeNews.com) — A South Dakota school district has backed down in the face of a lawsuit by a pro-life group that contends it refused access to its buildings for events. Rapid City Area School District lawyers said the school never refused the group access, but went along with a settlement on Tuesday and said the buildings will be available.

The district has a policy preventing religious and political groups from using its facilities.

In August 2006, Citizens for Life President Allen Carlson requested permission for the group to meet at Dakota Middle School’s auditorium to host a pro-life speaker.

Two months later, the school denied Carlson’s request without providing a reason, the group said.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund sued the district saying it abrogated Citizens for Life’s free speech by allowing other groups to use the building.

According to an AP report, the Rapid City School District has relented and will allow the pro-life group to use its auditorium even though "politically associated issues" will be discussed at the event.

With the agreement, Carlson will drop his request for the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the district. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier won’t hold a hearing on April 14 as planned but is giving both sides until then to resolve the suit.

AP indicated the group’s federal version of its lawsuit will remain active but it won’t be put on an expedited schedule since the district will allow the next event to proceed.

Stephen Wesolick of Rapid City, the local attorney for Citizens for Life, told AP the suit continues because "We still have issues in the case."

Those likely center on the "viewpoint discrimination" inherent in the school district’s policy.

In their statement to LifeNews.com about the lawsuit, ADF attorneys said the 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. “The equal access rights of Citizens for Life must be honored regardless of whether school district officials agree with the group’s message.”

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