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Alliance Defense Fund champions free speech at three university campuses

ADF turns a "triple play" for freedom of speech in higher education
Published On: 10/18/2017

PHOENIX—In three straight victories, the Alliance Defense Fund working with local allied attorneys have successfully helped protect the free speech and religious expression rights of college students at well-known state universities.  The University of Minnesota, the University of Oklahoma, and Southwest Missouri State University have all settled out of court, agreeing to rewrite policies that violated the First Amendment rights of students.

"After ADF and its allied attorneys filed lawsuits challenging the restrictive policies at these three universities, they all came to agree with us that their policies had to change," said Benjamin Bull, chief counsel with ADF.  "The Constitution does not allow state universities to single out religious groups for discriminatory treatment," Bull said.

  • University of Minnesota school officials agreed that it could not require Maranatha Christian Fellowship and other campus religious groups to sign a so-called "Equal Opportunity Statement." The policy would have forced Maranatha to accept members and officers who reject the group’s Christian teachings.  ADF and local allied attorney Chuck Shreffler filed a lawsuit against the university, which then settled out of court.  Officials rewrote the policy to permit religious groups to require their leaders and members to agree with their religious beliefs.
  • University of Oklahoma school officials agreed to change the school’s policy of denying funding to religious student groups.  They had denied funding available to other organizations to a Christian student group’s newspaper, Beacon OU, because of the newspaper’s "religious viewpoint."  ADF and local allied attorney Stephen Cale filed suit against the school, which also chose to settle out of court.  As part of the settlement, the school also agreed to change another policy that prohibited Christian groups from requiring leaders to agree with the organization’s religious beliefs. 
  • Southwest Missouri State University school officials changed discriminatory policies against religious student groups after ADF and local allied attorney Scott Nehrbass filed suit against the university on behalf of the local chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.  The university’s policies seriously impeded the group’s efforts in recruiting new members, meeting on campus, and applying for funding from student fees.  The school settled out of court and abandoned the policies in question.

"We commend the school officials in these cases for clearing up these matters quickly and updating university policy to protect the constitutional rights of students," Bull said.  "ADF will continue to defend the rights of Christian student groups who are singled out for unfair treatment based upon the practice of their faith."

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.
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