Pro-life student group reaches settlement with Wayne St. Univ. over funds, access

ADF attorneys pave road to lifting unconstitutional campus policy discriminating against Students for Life
Thursday, August 13, 2009

DETROIT — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom have reached a favorable settlement on behalf of a pro-life student organization in a lawsuit against officials of Wayne State University. WSU has agreed to change its unconstitutional student fee and facilities use policies and pay back previously denied student fee funds.

ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit against university officials in July 2008 after the school refused to allow Students for Life the same access to student fees and facilities that other student groups have.

“Pro-life student groups shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joseph Martins. “Public universities cannot discriminate against student organizations simply because of their religious or political viewpoints, and we are pleased that Wayne State has now come to this understanding.”

After Students for Life President Andrea Bezaire 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 application and because the group’s message “cross[ed] the line of political advocacy.”

Appealing the denial, Bezaire removed all religious references to meet the committee’s demands, but Students for Life was denied again, as some student council members stated that the subject matter of the group’s event was inappropriate and would greatly offend women who have had an abortion.

Also revised as part of the settlement was WSU’s reservation policy, which denied Students for Life access to a room because the university officials declared the group’s pro-life event “unsuitable.”  The lawsuit, Wayne State University Students for Life v. Driker, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

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.