Every year, on the third Monday of January, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day. People all over the country take this day to remember the great civil rights activist. There are marches, speeches, and even parades celebrating and commemorating his legacy.
So you’d think that Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, would be warmly welcomed in MLK’s home state of Georgia when she spoke at Georgia Tech University last year.
But you’d be wrong.
In summer 2019, the Students for Life chapter at Georgia Tech invited King to their university campus to speak about her pro-life views. But the Student Government Association (SGA) refused to fund the event.
Why the opposition?
Because King is “inherently religious,” like her uncle.
Watch to learn more about what happened at Georgia Tech:
Georgia Tech’s student government discriminated against the viewpoints of Students for Life and Martin Luther King Jr.’s own niece for the sake of not “offending” other students.
But public universities have a duty to their students to ensure that funds are used on campus in a way that doesn’t favor one viewpoint over another. After all, college campuses should be places where students are encouraged to grapple with ideas that they don’t agree with, so that they can learn about other viewpoints and how to best defend their own views. But this won’t happen if colleges continue to permit viewpoint discrimination.
“Rather than demonstrate this sort of hostility toward the First Amendment, universities should illustrate the importance of those freedoms through defending them in the face of pressure,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “When they don’t, they communicate to an entire generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”
Georgia Tech’s violation of the First Amendment is no small deal. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the university in 2020. Campus administrators across the country need to know that they don’t have the license to trample on their students’ constitutional rights.
Ironically, it was this issue—viewpoint discrimination—that landed Martin Luther King Jr. in the Alabama jail where he penned his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963. In April 1963, when King and other civil rights activists peacefully gathered in Birmingham, the city responded by passing an ordinance that banned public gatherings without a permit.
When King requested the permit, Birmingham denied it.
The city, like the SGA at Georgia Tech, discriminated against a viewpoint it didn’t like. And unfortunately, similar scenarios are playing out on campuses all over the nation.
That’s where you come in. If students’ First Amendment freedoms aren’t protected, neither are yours. And that’s why we must all stand to help secure and protect our most basic rights.
Learn more about what you can do to stand for freedom.
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