CASEYoung America’s Foundation v. William Covino

Client Story
Young America’s Foundation and Ben Shapiro

Ironic, isn’t it, that a university committed to “understanding of and respect for diversity” would attempt to shut down an event on . . . diversity.

Well, that is exactly what happened at California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA).

 

Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and CSULA Young Americans for Freedom, a registered student organization on campus, invited conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to give a presentation on “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” at their free speech event. They promoted the event on social media but soon began receiving angry, threatening comments from both students and CSULA faculty calling the group “white supremacist” and comparing them to Hitler. One professor even went as far as challenging the students to a fight. 

As a result, the university charged YAF over $600 in security fees because it deemed the event “controversial.” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter on behalf of YAF to CSULA demanding that they rescind the unconstitutional security fees. In response, the university rescinded the fees, but cancelled the event because it disagreed with the viewpoint of the speaker. University President William Covino said it was “best for our campus community” that the event be cancelled and combined with a “more inclusive event” that he would schedule another time so that it could include “speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.”

YAF and Shapiro planned to go ahead with the event as scheduled. President Covino said that although he disagrees with the viewpoint of Shapiro, he would allow him to speak and “make every effort to ensure a climate of safety and security.”

In the hours prior to the event, hundreds of protestors, including CSULA faculty, began flooding the Student Union where the event was being held. Linked arm-in-arm, they blocked access to the entrances of the event. Instead of moving the protestors to a safe location where they could express their message, President Covino ordered campus police not to interfere. As a result, only half of the attendees made it inside the event.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents Young America’s Foundation, CSULA Young Americans for Freedom, Ben Shapiro, and three university students. We are defending the right of students to speak freely on campus without being subject to threats, physical violence, and obstruction from protestors. 

Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas where all voices are heard. But, more and more universities are becoming not places of diverse thought and speech, but places that shut down viewpoints that don’t align with a higher political agenda.

We applaud the courage of YAF to fight for their right to free speech, and ultimately, the rights of all university students.


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Summary
Conservative Ben Shapiro was scheduled to give a presentation at California State University–Los Angeles in February 2016 as part of a free speech event that Young America’s Foundation and the Cal State–L.A. chapter of Young Americans for Freedom organized. University officials first attempted to shut down the event. When those efforts failed, professors helped incite a mob of protestors to block entry to the venue where Shapiro was speaking.
News Releases

Cal State L.A. agrees to drop discriminatory speech policies, settles lawsuit

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Cal State L.A. agrees to drop discriminatory speech policies, settles lawsuit

ADF attorneys representing Young Americans for Freedom secure settlement to clear way for campus visit by Ben Shapiro, other speakers

Feb 28, 2017 Read More

Is Cal State L.A. safe for free speech or does the mob win?

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Is Cal State L.A. safe for free speech or does the mob win?

Conservative Ben Shapiro’s speech on diversity was met with threats from far left groups; security failed to control violent agitators

Dec 02, 2016 Read More

When the ‘marketplace of ideas’ becomes a dangerous place for free speech

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When the ‘marketplace of ideas’ becomes a dangerous place for free speech

Conservative Ben Shapiro’s scheduled presentation on diversity is met with threats from far left groups; security fails to control mob that promised violence

May 19, 2016 Read More

CSU–Los Angeles backs down, will allow conservative speaker

Religious Freedom

CSU–Los Angeles backs down, will allow conservative speaker

“Silencing the speech of students on a public university campus—the very marketplace of ideas—because of their views is not only illogical, it’s unconstitutional. The university has made the right decision in allowing the Young Americans for Freedom event to proceed as planned and as we requested, without censorship and without unconstitutional fees.”

Feb 25, 2016 Read More

CSU–Los Angeles cancels student group’s event to silence conservative guest speaker

Religious Freedom

CSU–Los Angeles cancels student group’s event to silence conservative guest speaker

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday on behalf of a student group to California State University, Los Angeles, for charging the group unconstitutional fees in order to exercise its freedom of speech. The university president responded immediately by cancelling the event, having “decided that it will be best” to include the speaker in a “more inclusive event” featuring “a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.” The student organization, Young Americans for Freedom, is now considering a lawsuit against the university.

Feb 23, 2016 Read More
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Documents
https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/young-america-s-foundation-v.-william-covino/young-america-s-foundation-v-william-covino---stipulation-of-dismissal.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/young-america-s-foundation-v.-william-covino/young-america-s-foundation-v-william-covino---complaint.pdf?sfvrsn=10
Court Title Date
Trial Court
Stipulation of dismissal Feb 23 2017
Trial Court
Complaint May 19 2016

Commentary

Resources

Video: ADF, YAF, Ben Shapiro file free speech suit against CSULA

Casey Mattox: The Berkeley riot expresses dominant anti-American campus culture (The Federalist, 2017-02-06)

Biographies

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