Wayne State University denies funds, access to pro-life student group

ADF attorneys file suit against university over unconstitutional policy discriminating against Students for Life
Thursday, July 24, 2008

DETROIT — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit Wednesday after officials of Wayne State University refused to allow a pro-life student group the same access to student fees and facilities that other student groups have.

“Student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joseph Martins.  “Access for these groups to funding and facilities must be provided without regard to the group’s viewpoint.  When a public university enforces a viewpoint-discriminatory policy, the school violates the Constitution.”

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the school’s student fee policy, which precludes student groups with religious viewpoints from benefits that are extended to student groups with nonreligious views.

Andrea Bezaire, president of WSU Students for Life, submitted a budget request to WSU’s Budget Committee to help fund the group’s Pro-Life Week 2008 events.  The committee denied the request “because of the spiritual and religious programming references in the cover letter.”

In Bezaire’s appeal of the denial, she removed all religious references in order to meet the budget committee’s demands.  Even so, the university replied by again denying the group’s entire budget request, with some student council members stating that the subject matter of the group’s events was inappropriate and would greatly offend women who had an abortion.

The lawsuit also challenges a reservation policy which WSU used to deny the group access to a room because the university officials found the proposed pro-life event to be “unsuitable.”

“Universities cannot enforce policies designed to suppress student groups from presenting religious perspectives on societal issues,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum.  “Wayne State currently extends funding to student groups with a whole range of different views; it cannot single out this one for discrimination.  What it really appears to come down to is that the values of Students for Life conflict with the politically correct philosophies embraced by the university, and that is not a sufficient legal basis for discriminating against the group.”

A copy of the filed complaint in Wayne State University Students for Life v. Driker is available here.  

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.