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ADF challenging unconstitutional requirements placed on student pro-life speech at ASU

Right to free speech on campus comes at heavy price for ASU club members
Beware the Bias Investigators

PHOENIX — Arizona State University Students for Life, represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed suit today against Arizona State University after school officials demanded that the students indemnify the university before presenting a pro-life message on campus.

“Colleges and universities cannot treat pro-life students differently than they treat other students,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker.  “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Arizona State did when they forced pro-life students to pay for insurance in order to exercise their right to free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

In December 2005, members of ASU Students for Life submitted a request to display an exhibit on campus.  Their planned display, designed by the non-profit organization Justice for All, is a comprehensive exhibit highlighting different aspects of the pro-life viewpoint.

After attempting to reserve several areas in which to display the exhibit, the group was told by ASU administration officials that it would be restricted to just one.  A club member requesting an explanation was told by a university official that “that’s just the way it is.”

University officials then told the club it would need to pay a $50 reservations fee, a cost it was not charged in the past, and that it would need to submit a certificate of insurance and pay a $300 fee to speak on campus.  The university subsequently dropped these requirements after receiving a letter from Hacker but insisted that the club obtain insurance in order to display its exhibit despite the lack of a written policy.  ASU Students for Life experienced similar restrictions on space and was again required to purchase insurance for a subsequent event in April 2006.

“Free speech should not have a price tag,” Hacker said.  “Furthermore, university officials’ reliance on unwritten and unequally applied policies in their attempts to prevent ASU Students for Life from exercising their First Amendment rights is unconstitutional.”

ADF attorneys have successfully defended legal situations involving pro-life displays from Justice for All on other university campuses, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Houston.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.