Minnesota School OKs Environmental Group, Not Pro-Life Club

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 7, 2011   |   10:21PM   |   Minneapolis, MN

A school district in Minnesota is under fire for approving one political group on campus but not allowing a pro-life club.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a student-led pro-life club against Independent School District #885 for denying the club, at St. Michael-Albertville High School, official status because it allegedly “does not support the student body as a whole.” Despite that claim, school officials have recognized more than a dozen other non-curricular clubs, including the Environmental and Animé clubs, providing them with benefits and access currently denied to the pro-life student group, known as the All Life Is Valuable (ALIV) Club.

“Pro-life students should not be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs. As the Supreme Court has noted, students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “School officials do not have the authority to trump the constitutionally protected rights of students, and by denying the ALIV Club official status on campus, they are doing exactly that. ADF has successfully litigated numerous cases like this around the country.”

The principal of St. Michael-Albertville High School denied equal treatment to the ALIV Club and the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes even though District Policy 801 requires the district to grant equal access to student clubs wishing to meet for “religious, political, or philosophical reasons during non-instructional time.”

The ALIV Club addresses a variety of issues that students face, including those related to faith and religion, life, abortion, abstinence, personal responsibility, leadership, community service, peer pressure, promoting respect and dignity for all others, and examining governmental and political issues. Neither the ALIV Club nor FCA, however, receive any of the benefits enjoyed by more than a dozen other recognized non-curricular student clubs. Officially recognized clubs, such as the Diversity Club, Environmental Club, Animé Club, and Book Club are able to meet during a special club period, make announcements, and engage in fundraising activities, among other benefits.

Hopkins attorney Charles Shreffler, one of nearly 1,900 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, ALIV Club v. Independent School District #885, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.