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Alliance Alert

Mar 15, 2017

Sidewalk Messages Scrubbed Despite Constitution

Today's case is fairly straightforward, or so you'd think.

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania recently scrubbed chalked pro-life messages from the campus's sidewalks even though the school permits other groups to display chalked messages.

The university's policy for chalking is contradictory, and that isn't even the worst of it. Let's take a look.

First, the background:

"Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the president of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania after officials there scrubbed chalked pro-life messages from the campus’s sidewalks even though the school permits other groups to chalk.

"Members of the Students for Life chapter at the university wrote life-affirming messages onto various sidewalks and other uncovered walkways on campus as part of National Pro-Life Chalk Day but later learned that university officials used a scrub brush to wash the messages away, saying they were 'just following orders.' When students replaced the messages, officials scrubbed some of them away again."

First problem: The school's policy contradicts itself. As noted in the letter ADF sent, the Posting and Chalking Guidelines say both that "[c]halking is permitted only on sidewalks and other uncovered walkways" and that "[n]o material may be displayed . . . on sidewalks."

That is, well, confusing. But even that isn't the biggest issue with the policy. Here's what ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham had to say:

"The university’s chalking policy only permits messages the university agrees with. Nothing could more clearly violate the First Amendment than a policy that silences students based on whether university officials like or don’t like what the students are saying."

This is straightforward stuff: Do not institute policies that discriminate against particular viewpoints. Universities should model the First Amendment for their students, not give them a hands-on lesson in fighting unconstitutional policies. Universities should be a place for the free expression of ideas, not the censorship of ideas officials deem unfavorable.

We hope the university will see the clearly unconstitutional policies and amend as necessary. We will, of course, keep you updated.

  • Students for Life of America
  • Kutztown University
  • Pennsylvania
  • religious freedom
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