– The University of Michigan has revised its unconstitutional funding policy in the wake of a federal lawsuit
that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of a student organization in 2013. In exchange for ending the suit
, the university revised its policy and last week paid $5,000 in damages to the student organization and $9,000 of the group’s attorneys’ fees.
“In accord with their reason for existence, universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “We commend the University of Michigan for recognizing that student organizations like Young Americans for Liberty should not be singled out and denied funding based purely upon the viewpoint expressed at one of its events. Courts have repeatedly regarded this as unconstitutional.”
In December 2013, ADF attorneys filed suit against the University of Michigan on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty for denying funding to the group strictly because of its views. University officials denied the group funds from mandatory student activity fees because officials said they prohibit such funding for “political” events; however, the university has provided funding to other groups involved in political and religious speech.
The lawsuit, Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Michigan v. Coleman, noted that university officials have been inconsistent with their funding guidelines and have allocated the same funds to the political speech of other groups discussing “immigrants rights, affirmative action, and Islam, just to name a few.” In fact, shortly before denying YAL funding, the university granted funding to a group that sponsored an event in favor of affirmative action.
“The constitutional freedoms of political and religious student organizations must be recognized by university officials just as they recognize those freedoms for other student groups,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We are pleased the University of Michigan has revised its student funding policy to include all groups, regardless of their political viewpoint.”
Steven M. Jentzen, one of more than 2,400 allied attorneys with ADF, was co-counsel in the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
ADF has prevailed in similar lawsuits against Eastern Michigan University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Texas A&M University.