Great news for free speech, specifically pro-life speech, on college campuses! Students for Life of America’s University of South Alabama campus group, along with Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, have reached a legal settlement in a lawsuit that has increased the amount of the University of South Alabama campus that is open to free speech from less than one percent to the vast majority of campus.
Also, the settlement ensures that the university’s policies will be applied the same way to all student groups and prevents university officials from censoring pro-life speech based on its message.
This is a big win for pro-lifers on college campuses and hopefully this settlement will be a blueprint for other similar cases down the road.
The university had relegated Students for Life USA’s pro-life display – a Cemetery of the Innocents – to a small speech zone on campus because it deemed the event “controversial.”
Under the university’s policies, students had to obtain a permit 72 hours in advance if they wanted to use any area outside of that zone. In 2014, ADF attorneys filed the suit Students for Life USA v. Waldrop in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama on behalf of the student group.
“Universities are meant to be beacons for the free exchange of ideas. Sadly, they have too frequently become safe spaces to babysit kids who may be offended by a particular point of view,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “We are pleased that the University of South Alabama will now allow its students to hear different viewpoints instead of protecting them from real-world discourse. Hopefully, other institutions of higher education will follow suit.”
In October 2013 and again in February 2014, Students for Life USA requested permission to a hold a “Cemetery of Innocents” event, which consists of students placing small crosses in the ground to represent the innocent lives lost to abortion. University officials denied the request and said it would need to be held in the campus’s speech zone, even though other groups had exercised free speech on other portions of the campus. At the time, the speech zone comprised less than one percent of the college’s main campus.