School district: Alliance Defense Fund confused about anti-abortion student group


The superintendent of a central Minnesota school district says a lawsuit against it by an anti-abortion legal group is a misunderstanding and that the litigation came out of the blue last Thursday. A representative of the Alliance Defense Fund, a national group that has sued numerous school districts, says the school should not be surprised by the lawsuit and claims it continues to violate students’ rights by not listing the All Life Is Valuable Club as “curricular.”

“The bottom line is, we have not denied access,” Dr. Jim Behle, St. Michael-Albertville School District Superintendent-elect, told St. Michael Patch. “The student group can meet in our school; basically, what the lawsuit wants us to do, we have already done. There’s a lot of misinformation being alleged.”

“Obviously [ADF] believed, and we’re kind of confused by this, that for some reason this group was going to be denied,” he said. “There’s obviously some confusion someplace by the national organization that filed this.”

But the ADF told the Minnesota Independent there’s is no confusion.

“There is no reason for the school district to be ‘surprised’ as it has been violating the club’s constitutional rights for several months now,” said ADF’s senior counsel David Cortman. “The district is currently taking the same position that they have throughout this entire process.”

ADF, which represents ALIV, says the group should be considered a “curricular” group and have all the same access the other educational student groups do, including meeting during school hours on school property. ADF says the group could be tied to health classes, for instance.

According to the lawsuit, ALIV’s curriculum involves “faith and religion, life, abortion, abstinence from premarital sex, personal responsibility, keeping and raising children in the event of pregnancy.”

“The school district still has the opportunity to immediately end this case by reversing its position and granting the pro-life club official recognition, just like that which is granted to the book club and the anime club, among others,” said ADF’s Cortman.

The ADF has been prolific in suing various educational institutions. In the last month alone, the group has been involved in actual or threatened legal action against at least six educational institutions.

In one instance, ADF threatened to file suit if the University of Buffalo’s student government organization didn’t recognize the group Students for Life. In a letter, ADF said the process was taking too long and threatened litigation if the situation wasn’t rectified. The university relented.

ADF won a case against a Chicago high school that asked a student who wore a “Be Happy, Not Gay” t-shirt to change the slogan to “Be Happy, Be Straight” or “The Truth Cannot Be Silenced,” which is a slogan of ADF’s anti-gay Day of Truth.

Last month, ADF filed a federal lawsuit after a New Hampshire zoning board denied an application by a man who wanted a blinking Jesus sign near the highway. The zoning board said the sign would distract drivers, but after the suit the body reversed its decision.

The legal group won a case in Arkansas that will allow a third grader to distribute Christian church pamphlets on school property during school hours, and in Pennsylvania ADF is suing a school district because it prevented a student from distributing church fliers during school hours.

A California school district backed down just hours after the ADF filed suit following the school’s decision that a student’s Christian talent routine would possibly violate the separation of church and state.

ADF boasts a budget of $32.7 million and was founded by a consortium of religious right entities including Campus Crusade for Christ, Focus on the Family and the American Family Association, which was recently listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Lawsuits against schools are not the group’s only activities. In the month of March, the group was involved in legal action against a number of public and private entities, as well. ADF is suing an Arizona county on behalf of a church that had failed to file its property taxes or an exemption to avoid the taxes. The county is attempting to collect three years of backed taxes.

The ADF is also currently representing a woman who was fired as a counselor for the Centers for Disease Control after she told a gay client that the client’s lifestyle was contrary to her religious beliefs, and the group just lost a case in which a conservative Christian mother wanted to home-school her child over the objections of her ex-husband. A court ruled in favor of the father to send his daughter to public school.

The group is also suing an LGBT group called Bash Back! which protested a Michigan church. The church is suing for civil damages.

Closer to home, the group joined a suit in Wisconsin to overturn that state’s domestic partner registry for same-sex couples.

And in New York City, ADF is suing prevent an ordinance that requires anti-abortion clinics, called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), to include in their materials that they do not provide abortions or contraceptives. CPCs have a history of misleading women who have unintended pregnancy into their clinics by insinuating they provide a full range of options.