Conservative students appeal case, argue U. of Minn. used official policy to suppress, censor Ben Shapiro event

ADF attorneys appeal lower court decision that denied justice to students censored by university
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS – Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom—representing a student group, a national nonprofit, and conservative speaker and author Ben Shapiro—filed a notice of appeal Tuesday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. The students and Shapiro are appealing a federal district court decision that ruled their First Amendment rights were not violated by the University of Minnesota after the school suppressed and censored conservative viewpoints using its “Large Scale Events Policy.”

On behalf of the clients, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit in July 2018 challenging the constitutionality of the policy, which university officials used to restrict, relocate, and downsize an academic lecture delivered by Shapiro and hosted by Young America’s Foundation and student group Students for a Conservative Voice. The university justified its discrimination because, as one official said, Shapiro’s speech would be “controversial.”

“No university official has the authority to suppress viewpoints simply because of how someone might respond to it,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Like all government officials, public university administrators have an obligation to respect free speech rights, and we are hopeful that the 8th Circuit will recognize that important reality. The First Amendment secures the freedom of all students and their speakers to participate in the marketplace of ideas, and it prohibits university officials from creating or enforcing policies that impose restrictions based on the content or viewpoint of the speech.”

SCV, a recognized student organization at UMN, invited Shapiro to speak at a campus lecture in 2018 because the group believed his viewpoints were underrepresented and treated unfairly by faculty and administrators at the university. At SCV’s request, YAF agreed to provide assistance and financial support. SCV students requested use of Willey Hall, a 1,056-person facility located on the Minneapolis campus near public transportation. However, despite the facility’s availability when requested, university officials gave the student group the run-around, arbitrarily capped the number of attendees at 500 persons, and banished the event to UMN’s St. Paul campus, depriving hundreds of students the opportunity to attend the Shapiro lecture and participate in a dialogue on matters of public concern.

“Young America’s Foundation supports the free and open exchange of ideas because such dialogue is critical to a student’s education,” said YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown. “Unfortunately, the University of Minnesota has deprived its student body of an intellectually diverse learning environment. The school administrators’ discriminatory treatment of conservatives—sidelining Shapiro and a limited number of students who wished to hear his ideas at a remote area of the St. Paul Campus—should not be allowed to continue. YAF remains committed to holding administrators accountable for their censorship of conservative students at the University of Minnesota and across the country.”
 
Founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in the 1960s, Young America’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public on the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, traditional values, and leadership.
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
 
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