Skip to main content
Supreme Court of the United States

EMU Tells Pro-Life Students Their Speech Is Too Biased

October 17, 2017

by David Hacker

I can hardly believe it, but it has been nearly 20 years since the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia and said that public universities who allocate mandatory student fees to student groups must do so on a viewpoint neutral basis.  That's why I was surprised when yet another student group contacted us for help after a university refused to fund its pro-life event on campus.

Earlier this month, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University.  SFL is hosting the Genocide Awareness Project on campus in April and applied for student fee funding to help pay the costs.  GAP is a traveling photo-mural exhibit which compares the contemporary genocide of abortion to historically recognized forms of genocide.  EMU's student government refused to provide any funding because it said the event was too "biased," "controversial," and "one-sided."  When SFL pressed the matter, the student government pointed to an EMU policy that prohibits funding for any student event that contains "political or ideological" speech.

It's hard to fathom any college student speech that doesn't contain some political or ideological message.  Anyone who has walked around a college campus has seen the variety of advertisements for political and ideological events.  Indeed, EMU does provide funding for political and ideological speech of some student groups, but chose to exclude SFL from funding simply because the event, which contains a pro-life message, was too biased, controversial, and one-sided.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that public universities persist in maintaining these obviously unconstitutional policies.  Last year, Alliance Defending Freedom represented a student group at Texas A&M University after the university denied it funding to bring a socially conservative speaker to campus.  And just a few years ago, we represented the Badger Catholic student group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a student fee lawsuit that lasted several years and reached the highest courts in the nation.

We hope EMU will do the right thing, like Texas A&M did last year, and resolve the lawsuit by removing the restriction on political or ideological speech.  If not, we're prepared to go to the trenches and secure a lasting legal victory for the free speech of all EMU students.


Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith


Loudoun County Tanner Cross Settlement
Court Upholds Tanner Cross’ Free Speech Rights

A settlement has been reached with Loudoun County School District that permanently prohibits school officials from retaliating against Tanner for exercising his free speech rights.

Senators memo on parental rights
Senators Push Back on Use of Federal Law Enforcement to Investigate Concerned Parents

30 senators have introduced a resolution supporting the right of parents to be the leading voice in the education of their children.

Resolution 1
Senate Resolution Reminds Us Why Religious Education Should Be Celebrated

Earlier this week, Senator Lindsay Graham introduced Senate Resolution 407, legislation that celebrates religious schools and their contributions to our country by designating the first week of October as “Religious Education Week.”