BUFFALO, N.Y. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Young Americans for Freedom chapter and three students at the University at Buffalo filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against university officials and the Student Association after they derecognized the conservative student group and barred it from receiving the same benefits as other student groups because it is a chapter of a national organization, Young America’s Foundation.
In March, two weeks after Young Americans for Freedom hosted a conservative speaker on campus, the Student Association revised its policies that govern recognition of clubs and prohibited them from being chapters of national organizations. The lawsuit explains that the timing of the revision together with the fact that the Student Association president sought legal counsel and told the Student Association Senate, “We all know why we’re doing this,” demonstrates that they were targeting Young Americans for Freedom and its views. On Thursday, the Student Association derecognized Young Americans for Freedom because it is a chapter of Young America’s Foundation.
“Associating with likeminded peers on campus to discuss relevant issues is fundamental to the rights of free speech and exercise that the First Amendment protects,” said ADF Senior Counsel Caleb Dalton. “But instead of protecting an open and free marketplace of ideas, officials at the University at Buffalo have violated Young Americans for Freedom’s constitutionally protected freedom to assemble and speak. Public universities can’t punish students because of their political or religious viewpoints or affiliation with a national organization.”
Young Americans for Freedom has existed as a registered student organization on the UB campus since 2017, and for the last two years, the student group has had more than 100 members and has held weekly meetings on campus. As a chapter of Young America’s Foundation, UB Young Americans for Freedom’s purpose is to provide an environment for the students of UB to learn about U.S. history, the U.S. Constitution, individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and other topics. Young Americans for Freedom fulfills its mission by engaging in expressive activities on campus, including posting flyers and signs, hosting tables with information, inviting speakers to campus, and talking with fellow students.
Now that university officials have derecognized the club, Young Americans for Freedom is no longer eligible to receive the budget it was allocated from the Mandatory Student Activity Fee, nor can it operate as a student organization or receive the benefits that come with that recognition, including reserving space on campus for meetings or events, setting up tables with information in the Student Union, or participating in fundraising or membership recruitment. The lawsuit explains that, despite the new policy, other student organizations with similar purposes are still allowed to be chapters of outside organizations and receive official recognition.
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, University at Buffalo Young Americans for Freedom v. University at Buffalo Student Association, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
Denis Kitchen, one of more than 4,700 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom and the students.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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