ADF attorneys secure settlement with Shippensburg University

University officials agree to drop unconstitutional ‘speech codes’
Thursday, October 23, 2008

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have settled a lawsuit with officials at Shippensburg University, bringing an end to the school’s unconstitutional “speech codes.”  On behalf of a Christian student organization, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom had challenged the codes, which severely restricted students’ First Amendment rights.

“Christian students and clubs shouldn’t suffer discrimination for their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joseph J. Martins.  “We’re pleased that the university has finally agreed to end its ‘speech codes,’ which created an atmosphere of fear and hostility.”

On May 7, ADF attorneys and allied attorneys filed suit against SU officials after they failed to honor the terms of a 2004 settlement in which they promised to drop or revise unconstitutional policies pertaining to student speech.  Officials used provisions of the codes to strip a Christian student organization, Christian Fellowship, of its rights and privileges because it required members to honor a statement of faith and because it selected its leaders according to its interpretation of Biblical teaching.

Four years ago, a federal judge ordered Shippensburg to cease enforcing several of its speech policies, finding that they were overbroad and likely to chill student speech on campus in violation of the First and 14th Amendments.  Despite the settlement agreed upon at that time, SU’s student government later re-enacted some of the policies verbatim.  But now the university has agreed to correct the policies and respect the constitutional rights of its students.

“The university should be commended for deciding, ultimately, that the school’s policies should respect the First Amendment rights of students,” Martins said.

ADF-allied attorney Leonard Brown, Esq., of Lancaster served as local counsel to the ADF Center for Academic Freedom in the case.

The voluntary dismissal filed Thursday in light of the settlement by ADF CAF attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg Division, in Christian Fellowship of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania v. Ruud is available here

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities.  ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

www.telladf.org      www.centerforacademicfreedom.org