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Suit ends over pastor at SACS

– Just days after it was filed, a federal lawsuit against Southwest Allen County Schools has been dismissed.

On Friday, attorneys from the ACLU of Indiana sued the district on behalf of the parents of a Summit Middle School student, claiming the school endorsed religious beliefs by allowing a youth pastor from a local church in the building at lunchtime.

The parents, Linda and John Buchanan, alleged that the youth pastor was allowed to stand in a prominent location in the school and engage children in discussion. Such actions are a violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to the lawsuit.

“Many of the children recognize him as a religious leader,” ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk wrote in the lawsuit. “No other persons who are not associated with the school are allowed to stand in the lunchroom like this.”

Allowing the minister to attend lunches with the students when no other person not affiliated with the schools is able to do so represents an endorsement of religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit.

Linda Buchanan said in court documents she had been made aware of youth ministers at other schools within the district conducting the same visit. The district’s attorney said that when the matter was brought to the district’s attention, it rescinded the permission for the youth pastor to be at the schools before the lawsuit was filed. But the ACLU filed the lawsuit on Friday, after the parents canceled a meeting with the school district.

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and U.S. District Chief Judge Philip Simon granted their request.

rgreen@jg.net

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