Did Someone Forget the First Amendment? Public High School Denies SFLA Group Because It Didn’t “Feel Right”   

Caroline Wharton - 29 Nov 2023
Guest post co-written by SFLA Student Leader Aidan Strobel

GUEST POST: As pro-life students in Missouri, we wanted to do our part for the preborn children suffering from the violence of abortion and start a Students for Life of America (SFLA) group at our high school to aid in their protection. However, we quickly found out our First Amendment rights would not be respected by our administration.  

Here’s what you should know about the challenges we’ve faced and why we’re continuing to fight:  

In mid-October 2023, we visited the Activities Office at Marquette High School in Chesterfield Missouri to find out how to start a SFLA group on campus. While we were initially greeted kindly, our interaction with the office changed immediately when we said that SFLA was a pro-life group. The Activities Secretary told us we could not form the group because it would “make Marquette look like they are making a political statement,” adding that we couldn’t have a religious club. While both of us are personally Christians, SFLA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means it’s neither religious nor affiliated with a political party…so neither of these objections matter.  

Guest post co-written by SFLA Student Leader Jacob Barton

Regardless, even if SFLA was a religious organization, there are many religious and pop-culture “statement-making” organizations at Marquette (like the Gay-Straight Alliance and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) so this opposition was entirely inaccurate. When we questioned her further about the matter, she refused to provide a direct answer, and we left.  

Seeking help, we contacted SFLA’s Midwest Field Operations Coordinator Veronica Lamlech, and she helped us reach out to the Activities Director Adam Starling. When we emailed him, we received no response for days (keep in mind that this is his job), and when we followed up with him again, we finally got the following message: “After looking at the Students For Life website and talking to Dr. Waekerle [the building principal] about this matter, we feel like Marquette isn’t the right place for this group.” 

It was an odd email, and it both baffled and confused us that he couldn’t even give a reason for denying our request — he just “feels” that it is not right for Marquette. Fortunately, we live in America so what he feels doesn’t determine our rights.  

At this point, we were connected to SFLA’s legal team, and after working together, we are sending a demand letter to our school to remind them that their “feelings” cannot trump our rights. The First Amendment cannot be ignored just because you’re not in the mood. With SFLA’s help, we are hopeful we’ll get a group up and running at Marquette.  

Other schools in our district have SFLA groups, like Eureka High School. When we reached out to their founder to talk it over and discuss a future partnership, she told us, “I started Eureka SFL because I realized that most high schoolers don’t understand the harm that abortion causes, not only to the preborn baby but also to the mother. I wanted to find a way to educate my peers while also serving moms in need. All human life is valuable and has a purpose, no matter the age, stage of development, or location. Every person deserves a chance to take their first breath.”  

We are beyond excited to get our group officially recognized by our school so that we can make positive contributions and stand up for those who cannot yet stand up for themselves. We also look forward to the reaction of the administration after receiving the demand letter because we are pretty sure that they think we just gave up after they told us no— well, surprise!  The Pro-Life Generation doesn’t give up. 

If you’re facing similar problems at your school, know that you are not alone. You can contact [email protected] and get the help you need. Stay tuned to the SFLA blog to read updates on our situation.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: After SFLA legal counsel sent Marquette High School a demand letter, Strobel and Barton were told by their principal’s office that they are now cleared to have a SFLA group on campus. Another victory for pro-life free speech! This is why you challenge unconstitutional actions.

READ NEXT: The New “Gotcha” Question: What is the Definition of Late or Later-Term Abortion? 

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