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S.D. pro-life group no longer denied access to school campus

ADF reaches settlement on behalf of group that sought to use auditorium for after-school meeting

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have obtained a settlement from officials with the Rapid City Area School District in a lawsuit involving a pro-life group’s request to use a school auditorium for an after-school meeting.  In 2008, ADF filed suit against the school district after it denied Citizens for Life access to school facilities even though it allowed other groups to meet.

“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. “We’re pleased with the school district’s decision to amend its previous policy and their commitment to honor the constitutional right of Citizens for Life to have equal access to public 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.  The school denied the request without providing a reason.  In June 2007, a subsequent request by Carlson to host another pro-life discussion was also denied after school officials said the group’s message was “too controversial.”

In settling the case, Citizens for Life v. Rapid City Area School District, the school district agreed to amend the policy governing the public’s use of the facilities.  The previous policy permitted other community groups to use the facilities for similar meetings but restricted use for certain political and religious purposes thus allowing school officials too much latitude in deciding which groups may use buildings for meetings.

“We appreciate the efforts of the school district in working with us to create an even-handed policy,” said ADF allied attorney Stephen Wesolick, also representing Citizens for Life. “We hope other school districts will follow Rapid City School District’s lead in ensuring that the constitutional rights of all community groups are protected.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.