Boise State demands unconstitutional warning signs for pro-life events

Student organization’s speech also limited to less than 1 percent of campus
Monday, June 30, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  David Hacker  |  Kevin Theriot

BOISE, Idaho — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Friday against Boise State University for requiring a student organization to have warning signs for two pro-life events on campus it deemed “controversial.”

The university also prohibited the group from distributing fliers outside one of the school’s eight “speech zones,” which together are limited to less than one percent of the entire campus.

“University policies that suppress free speech are completely at odds with what a university is: a marketplace of ideas,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Free speech should not be limited to a tiny area on campus, nor should students be told their speech needs a warning sign simply because university officials think their views are ‘controversial.’ Students should be allowed to freely express themselves peacefully anywhere on campus without any unconstitutional caveats, regardless of their political beliefs.”

In April and May, Abolitionists4Life hosted two different events, “Survivors of Abortion Holocaust” and “What Has Roe Done for Us?,” which used images to communicate its pro-life message. A university official told the group that preemptive warning signs are required for events involving “controversial issues, specifically graphic pictures,” and that the events would not have been approved if the university knew there would be no warning signs. University officials also prohibited the organization from distributing fliers outside the reserved “speech zones.”

Boise State University has allowed other groups to host events without warning signs, including Planned Parenthood, which distributed condoms on campus, and the Secular Student Alliance, which distributed “Does God Exist?” fliers in open spaces on campus.

“Abolitionists4Life were following all the policies of Boise State University, yet they were unfairly discriminated against simply because of their views on abortion,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which is affiliated with Abolitionists4Life. “Just like other groups on campus, these pro-life students have every right to demonstrate and promote their events to the students.”

As the ADF lawsuit, Abolitionists4Life v. Kustra, filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Idaho, explains, “Speech, including oral, written, and pictorial expression, is entitled to comprehensive protection under the First Amendment. Religious and political speech, including the distribution of literature and the display of signs, is also fully protected by the First Amendment.… The First Amendment prohibits the government from prohibiting or limiting speech because it might offend the sensibilities of listeners, and any governmental attempts to do so are inherently content and/or viewpoint based.”

“Public universities should support – not oppose – free, spontaneous discourse on campus,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope Boise State University will revise its speech policies so that students can enjoy their constitutionally protected freedoms without having to comply with unnecessary and arbitrary rules and regulations.”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR'-ee-oh)
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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