Worthy Christian News » Christian » ACLJ Secures Local Equal Access For Texas Church and Pastor Bringing an End To Federal Lawsuit
ACLJ Secures Local Equal Access For Texas Church and Pastor Bringing an End To Federal Lawsuit
(Marshall, Texas) -- The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, announced today it has reached an agreement with a school district in Texas that clears the way for a pastor and his church â€“ which were denied use of school facilities after-hours â€“ to now use the facilities to hold religious meetings.
â€œThis is an important settlement that safeguards the constitutional rights of our client,â€ said Stuart J. Roth, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which represents the Pastor and the Church. â€œIt has taken a federal lawsuit and more than one year to resolve this issue. But the outcome is clear: our clients will enjoy the same equal access afforded to other community groups and will not be discriminated against in the future because of their religious activity and speech. Weâ€™re delighted with the outcome of this case.â€
The ACLJ filed suit in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas in April 2000 on behalf of John Wesley Smith, Jr. of Atlanta, Texas who is Pastor of CrossRoads Church, Inc., which is located in Naples, Texas in the northeast section of the state. The suit was filed against the Pewitt Consolidated Independent School District in Omaha, Texas after the school district rejected a request by the pastor to use school facilities after hours to hold a dinner theatre that included Christian drama and music. The suit contended that the school district told the pastor that the church could use the facilities only if â€œthey omit their â€˜very religiousâ€™ dramas.â€™â€
In July 2000, U.S. District Court Judge T. John Ward issued a Preliminary Injunction in the case â€“ clearing the way for the pastor and church to use the facilities in the future. Judge Ward said the school districtâ€™s actions amounted to â€œimpermissible viewpoint discriminationâ€ and concluded the school board â€œwas not affording church groups the same opportunity as school related or other community-based non-profit groups.â€
In a settlement agreement that has been signed by both parties and filed with the federal court, the school district agrees to permit Smith and the CrossRoads Church to use school facilities after-hours on the same terms and conditions as other community groups. The settlement agreement also calls for the school district to pay legal fees to the ACLJ totaling $67,500. The settlement agreement also states that if the school district discriminates against the pastor and church in the future, the ACLJ could return to court to pursue additional legal action against the school district.
â€œThe settlement agreement brings this case to a close,â€ said Roth. â€œEven after the court issued a preliminary injunction, the issue was not totally resolved. With this settlement agreement, though, the lawsuit is dismissed and our client is guaranteed to receive the same treatment and same access afforded to other community-based organizations.â€
The American Center for Law and Justice is an international public interest law firm and educational organization that focuses on constitutional issues and specializes in pro-family, pro-life, and pro-liberty cases.