ADF attorney available to media after hearing in Wash. college pro-life speech case

Spokane Falls Community College threatened to expel students in pro-life group
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WHO:  ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker
WHAT:  Available for media interviews after hearing in Sheeran v. Shea
WHEN:  Wednesday, April 29 immediately following hearing, which begins at 3 p.m. PDT
WHERE:  U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse, 920 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — Alliance Defense Fund Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker will be available for media interviews Wednesday following her arguments in the lawsuit Sheeran v. Shea.  ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit last month against Community Colleges of Spokane and Spokane Falls Community College officials for unconstitutionally attempting to silence the pro-life message of a student group.

“Christian and pro-life students shouldn’t be threatened, silenced, and discriminated against for attempting to share their beliefs on public college campuses,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker.  “Spokane Falls Community College went beyond censorship and actually tried to compel pro-life students to make statements they don’t believe--a requirement that’s nothing short of Orwellian.”

SFCC officials threatened Beth Sheeran and members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus to share information with other students because the message was “discriminatory” and did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint.

SFCC Director of Student Funded Programs Heather McKenzie rejected Sheeran’s timely request to hold a pro-life event on campus on Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that involved flier distribution and materials posted in an announcement display case in the student center.  McKenzie said college policy prohibits one-sided events and expressive displays on campus and that the pro-life display would not be allowed because it did not include any pro-abortion viewpoints.

Shortly after SFCC Associate Dean of Student Services and “Stop the Hate” committee chair Gregory Roberts told Sheeran that the group could hold the event, he, McKenzie, and the club’s faculty advisor attended a club meeting and intimidated the students into not holding the event.  Kurtz told the students that their flier was “offensive” and that their event violated the district’s “Stop the Hate” policy--as well as Washington law.  Kurtz said the students would face expulsion if they “offended” anyone.  Sheeran and the club never held the event.

ADF-allied attorney Jeffrey Smith of The Smith Law Group in Spokane is local counsel in the case.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities.  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.