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ADF files suit for pro-life group denied access to S.D. school facilities

Citizens for Life denied constitutional right to hold meetings on school campus
School Locker

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the Rapid City Area School District.  ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of Citizens for Life after officials twice denied the Christian pro-life organization’s requests to use school facilities for an after-school meeting.  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.

“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.”

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.

In June 2007, Carlson again applied to the school district on behalf of Citizens for Life to use the school’s 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 group’s 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.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.