A religious nonprofit legal firm is launching a lawsuit against Parkland School District in Lehigh Country, Pennsylvania after a high school banned a pro-life extracurricular club from forming due to the controversial nature of the club’s proposed charter.
The Thomas More Society filed suit last week against the school district, Parkland High School, and three school administrators on behalf of Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer, the students who submitted their club’s proposal to officials in March. The law firm alleges that the school violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act by denying the students their club.
The goal of the club, say the students, was “to educate their fellow students on the issue of abortion and to offer hope and resources to help in the cases of crisis pregnancies.” Shortly after the club was rejected, lawyers for the Thomas More Society sent a letter to the school demanding that they reverse their decision or be confronted with legal action. The school responded immediately, explaining that they stood behind their decision to bar the club and would only approve Castro and Schairer’s application if significant changes were made to the proposed charter. Parkland High School administrators said the students would have to submit a new draft of their mission statement, refrained from fundraising for religious causes, retracted their intention to hold off-site events, and restricted their official communications to members of the club.
Jocelyn Floyd, a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, said the school’s demands were not reasonable.
“Parkland’s initial denial and later attempt to impose extra requirements on Liz and Grace’s club are a far cry from the law’s requirement that schools treat student clubs equally in every respect,” said Floyd. “We hope that the court will quickly recognize the illegal and unconstitutional way the school has treated Liz and Grace and require Parkland High School to uphold their rights under both the First Amendment and Equal Access Act.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Schairer said, “The school is treating us like second-class citizens because we want to create a culture of life and be a positive influence to our peers.”
We’ll reserve judgement on the motivations of those in the Parkland High School administration; many of these schools go forward with decisions like these not because they have anything against Christians or the pro-life movement but because they’re terrified of being sued by the ACLU or some atheist group. If law firms like the Thomas More Society demonstrate that they are at risk of litigation when they discriminate against students of faith, perhaps they’ll begin to think twice about their knee-jerk reactions to religiously-themed activities.