Thursday, March 21, 2013
University Says Pro-Life Display is “Too Controversial”
By Caleb Parke
Eastern Michigan University refused to fund a student-sponsored pro-life exhibit because it was deemed “too controversial, biased, and one-sided,” according to a federal lawsuit filed against the university.
The Students For Life at EMU had applied for funding from student fees to host a pro-life display on campus called the Genocide Awareness Project – a traveling photo-mural exhibit which compares the contemporary genocide of abortion to historically recognized forms of genocide.
“Universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said David Hacker, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. “The university funded the advocacy of other student organizations but singled out Students for Life for exclusion based purely upon its viewpoint.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an Arizona-based group representing Students For Life.
The lawsuit, Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University v. Parker, notes that EMU officials have been inconsistent with their funding guidelines and have allocated the same funds to political and ideological speech discussing “welfare rights, women’s and abortion rights, student activist training, and race-conscious issues, just to name a few.”
The lawsuit also explains that the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause “prohibits content and viewpoint discrimination in a public university’s allocation of mandatory student fee funding.” Moreover, “the government may not regulate speech based on policies that permit arbitrary, discriminatory, and overzealous enforcement.” As the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, “viewpoint neutrality” must be the operating principle of student fees and funding.
EMU's Students for Life lay out in their Constitution that they are "committed to save lives threatened by induced abortion, destruction of human embryos...to educate on life issues."
"The constitutional freedoms of pro-life student organizations should be recognized by university officials just as they recognize those freedoms for other student groups," ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot said. “We hope EMU revises its student funding policy to include all groups, regardless of their political or ideological viewpoint.”