Law group defends pro-life students restricted to college 'speech zone'
A student group at the University of South Alabama is challenging the university administration after being told its pro-life display must be limited to the school’s small “speech zone.”
The non-profit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amended complaint on behalf of the students in their lawsuit against the university on Aug. 23.
“Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule,” said ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope that the University of South Alabama will revise its policy so that its students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”
Following university guidelines, Students for Life USA requested permission last October to host a “Cemetery of the Innocents” which would have consisted of planting small crosses in the ground to honor the victims of abortion.
The school denied their request, saying that the event was controversial and that it would could only be held in the campus “speech zone” which then consisted of the student center, making up less than 1 percent of the campus.
The university has allowed other student groups to exercise their freedom of speech on other parts of campus, ADF noted.
In its complaint, the legal group argues that the school’s “speech zone” policy violates students’ right to freedom of speech and gives university officials, “unbridled discretionary power to limit student speech in advance of such expression on campus and to do so based on the content and viewpoint of the speech.”
In August, the school expanded its “speech zone” to include other parts of campus, but Alliance Defending Freedom says that the school continues to restrict students’ constitutional rights.
Large, park-like parts of campus that ADF says were designed and previously used by students for practicing free speech are still off-limits.