CRE seeks legal relief for Memphian who is barred from holding a pro-life rally at a local school auditorium, though others are allowed to use the same space.
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE — November 20, 2013. Center for Religious Expression filed lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Kent Pruett against Shelby County Schools (SCS) because schools officials have denied Pruett equal access to school facilities. Per policy that bans demonstrations and the staging or disbanding of protests, SCS officials have told Pruett that he cannot hold a pro-life rally to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on school grounds. Despite the anticipated rally only involving speeches, discussion, and prayer, and Pruett having used Memphis public school facilities for this same event for close to three decades in the past, SCS has informed Pruett that his event is no longer welcome.
Pruett is denied space that others are allowed to use because of the content and viewpoint of his pro-life message.
“Individuals holing pro-life view should not be excluded form reserving and using public facilities because of their beliefs,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Despite the peaceful nature of the expressive activity, SCS took advantage of vague language in the policy to deny Pruett’s request.”
In the fall of 2012, Pruett was denied use of the auditorium at White Station High School in Memphis for a rally that took place on January 20, 2013. After the merger of the school systems, Pruett was hopeful of a policy change, but Pruett was informed by SCS officials that the policy was still the same, keeping him and his like-minded friends from meeting at the auditorium or at any other public school facility.
The Complaint alleges constitutional violations dealing with speech and assembly. Kellum added: “Shelby County Schools is not at liberty to pick viewpoints they like and exclude those they don’t.”
A motion for preliminary injunction is filed because the event – scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 20, 2014 – is fast approaching. “Pruett needs relief soon so they can make preparations for the rally,” said Kellum.