School District says, "We give up!"
SEATTLE—A Seattle school district will reimburse a church more than $25,000 plus their attorneys’ fees as part of a settlement in religious a discrimination case. The district charged the church a much higher fee than it charged secular non-profit organizations to use school facilities.
Everett School District No. 2 decided to settle the case after local counsel Kyle D. Netterfield, with the Seattle firm Ellis, Li, and McKinstry, PLLC and the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western Division of Washington on behalf of Northview Community Church.
The district agreed to reimburse the church for the money the church paid in excess of what the district charged other non-profit organizations. The district has also revised its policies and will no longer request membership lists from non-profit organizations as a condition of approval.
The church stopped meeting in the school district’s facilities in February 2003 because it could no longer afford the district’s excessive rate. The district demanded that the church turn over its private membership list in order to obtain a more favorable rate.
"The Constitution makes it clear that you don’t have to tell the government who your members are to exercise free speech," said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. "Furthermore, a church must receive the same treatment as another non-profit organization in a similar situation."
McCaleb added, "This is a victory for religious and all non-profit organizations, who should receive equal treatment under the law. We are thankful the school district did the right thing by settling early in the case."