Anti-abortion group sues St. Michael-Albertville High School

A Christian legal organization is suing St. Michael-Albertville High School for denying students the right to meet as an anti-abortion student club.

The Alliance Defense Fund is claiming that the high school violated students' religious freedom when it denied an application for All Life Is Valuable club. Note: this is an admittedly proselytizing club.

But the school district says they did NOT deny the club.

"We're a little baffled by the whole thing, for a few reasons," says Jim Behle, assistant superintendent of the school district. "We haven't received a lawsuit. And second, we haven't denied a pro-life group to meet after school."

That's not what the ADF is saying. According to the lawsuit, a student identified with the initials A.Z. met with Dale Carlson, the school's principal, in late January and asked if he could start a student club.

The principal allegedly looked into whether the district policies would allow the club, and then got back to the student a few week later, rejecting the club because the group "does not support the student body as a whole," the lawsuit reads.

Neither do the school's diversity, anime, and environmental groups, the ADF argues, but they're still allowed.

"It basically boils down to this: the First Amendment and Equal Access Act requires pro-life clubs or other religious clubs to be given equal access to all of the benefits and privileges given to other non-curriculum student clubs," says Matthew Sharp, an attorney working on the case.

But officials at the school district are saying that the ADF's account isn't exactly accurate. While a student did come in in January to discuss starting the club, the principal did NOT deny the club. He simply said it couldn't occur during school hours.

The environmental and manga groups are allowed to meet during the school day for one simple reason: "They're associated with our curriculum, and district-sponsored," Behle says.

Sharp, however, isn't buying the school's reasoning.

"That's going to boil down to the legal issue of what qualifies as curriculum and what doesn't," Sharp says. "But the basic requirement under the Equal Access Act is every non-curriculum club has to get equal treatment. You can't say well, this one club can't meet during the school day, all these other clubs can."

Interestingly, the Associated Press reported the lawsuit without calling to get the school's side. Behle told us we were the first news agency to call them.

Other clubs that meet before and after school: mock trial, speech, dance club, Athletics, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, jazz ensemble, weight room, one-act play, Business Professionals Association, jazz band, chamber singers. Most of those clubs are district-initiated, but Fellowship of Christian Athletes is student-initiated, says Behle.

The All Life Is Valuable club desires to "share their Christian faith with fellow members and students through ALIV club activities," including talking about "faith and religion, life, abortion, abstinence from premarital sex, personal responsibility, keeping and raising children in the event of pregnancy, leadership, community service, peer pressure," the lawsuit states.

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