“The Student Union is for all students. So we have to keep it happy for all of them,"
Claire Chretien wasn’t trying to make trouble, but the irony of the University of Alabama official’s words didn’t escape her.
Claire and the Bama Students For Life (BSFL) club reserved a display case in the Student Union for their tri-fold poster showing that abortion is “Not Safe, Not Rare, Just Legal.” Baby socks hung in the background, and the poster’s folds revealed several facts about the harm caused by abortion, including two small photos of aborted babies and photos of young women who had died from botched abortions.
But days before their reserved time ended, BSFL saw that the display had vanished. No one in the group had been notified, so as the president of the club, Claire went to investigate, and recorded her conversation with the university official.
The official told Claire that the group was “lucky” to have had the display up for as long as they did. The official claimed that university policy allows her to remove displays that have “offensive or graphic material” because of “complaints”; but inexplicably, the university’s policy pertaining to display cases mentions nothing about offensive or graphic content. And previous displays in the Student Union that included nudity and graphic sexual materials were allowed despite the likelihood that some students would be offended by them.
So, BSFL contacted Alliance Defending Freedom. We helped them craft a letter of complaint to the university, explaining their concern that the removal of the display violated the group’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech, and pointing out the other displays that weren’t evaluated by the same criteria.
Within days, Claire received an apology from the Student Center Union Director. He also offered options for dates to reinstate the display in the same glass case.
Now that their display is back up, the Bama Students For Life members realize “luck” had nothing to do with it. It took courage and conviction for BSFL to stand up for their rights and to seek legal action to defend them against censorship. And if even one student is reached through their anti-abortion display, it was more than worth the effort of standing up to their university officials.