Angela Little was a freshman at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) when a friend persuaded her to help establish a Students For Life (SFLA) chapter at the school. They collected signatures, recruited an adviser, and launched a slew of activities: Chalk Day (pro-life messages on campus sidewalks); Planned Parenthood Day (prominently exposing the corporation’s pro-abortion agenda), a petition drive protesting state insurance for abortion. Many of the events drew sizeable attention, brought out protesters, and stirred considerable discussion.
“We’re getting people to talk,” Angela said. “That’s our goal."
But EMU officials balked at letting SFLA bring the Genocide Awareness Project to campus. The project, which has stirred lively discussions and even protests on campuses coast to coast, presents an array of graphic photos comparing attitudes toward abortion with the equally-callous-toward-human-life attitudes of American slave owners and Nazis during World War II.
SFLA leaders did what all clubs on campus do when planning a major event – they applied for funding for the project from the EMU student government. Their request, though, was denied. When the club requested an explanation, student officers said the presentation was too “biased” and “controversial,” and declined to negotiate further.
Like the other members of the club, Angela was angry – and intimidated.
“I got mad,” she said. “I pay a lot of money in student fees every year, and we can’t get support? I’ve paid hundreds of dollars, and never seen any of it go to a group I actually agree with.”
After a lot of thought, Angela and the others decided that “It’s not fair for them to pick and choose what they fund and what they don’t.” With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, they filed suit against the school, which soon yielded and changed its bylaws.
“An article I read said, Victory for EMU Students For Life Group. But it wasn’t just a victory for us.” It was a win, she said, for “any small, conservative, Christian group that EMU didn’t want to fund. Just because they’re a big university doesn’t mean they’re always right. Sometimes, administrators need to be confronted. Somebody needs to stand up.”
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Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University v. Parker
What's at stake
- Students’ freedom to share pro-life ideas on campus
- The right of students to have equal access to mandatory student fees
Students for Life is a student group at Eastern Michigan University--a voice for babies in the womb amid a sea of misinformation. The university required all students to pay a mandatory student fee each semester, which it used to fund student group activities. But the university refused to fund groups like Students for Life because it said they were too “controversial.”
Students for Life decided to host the Genocide Awareness Project on campus, a traveling photo mural that shows the parallels between abortion and genocide throughout world history. So Students for Life applied for funding from the mandatory student fees that the university requires all of its members to pay, expecting to receive funding for the event like other student groups on campus.
But Eastern Michigan University’s student government denied the funding request. It said that Students for Life’s event was too “biased,” “one-sided,” and “controversial.” This stunned Students for Life because its members have seen many biased, one-sided, and controversial events on campus. Students for Life asked the student government to reconsider its decision, but it refused.
Students for Life contacted Alliance Defending Freedom for help. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group and settled the case in Students for Life’s favor. Alliance Defending Freedom continues to fight for the rights of many student groups like Students for Life so that they can participate equally in the marketplace of ideas.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Students for Life in a lawsuit against the Eastern Michigan University, and defended its right to equal access to mandatory student fees.