Wednesday, January 25, 2017

US College group sues after being denied grant for pro-life speaker

Students for Life at the Denver March for Life, Jan. 16, 2016. Credit: Peter Zelasko/CNA.A Colorado chapter of a national pro-life collegiate group is suing Colorado State University, after the school denied the organization funding for a campus event.
 
Last September, the CSU chapter of Students for Life applied to the university for a “Diversity Grant” to host a speaker from the Equal Rights Institute on the topic of abortion and bodily rights.

The grant is funded by student activity fees, which are mandatory for all enrolled students. 

According to the CSU website, the purpose of the Diversity Grant is to “enhance the educational and cultural aspects of the university community and raise the awareness of differing perspectives.”

The grant was denied to the pro-life group because the proposed speaker did not appear “entirely unbiased as it addresses the topic of abortion,” and therefore the diversity grant committee worried “that folks from varying sides of the issue won’t necessarily feel affirmed in attending the event,” the national branch of Students for Life reported on their website.

“That was the wrong answer,” the group said.

The university is being accused of denying free speech, and a lawsuit was filed Jan. 17 on behalf of CSU Students for Life by lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Emily Faulkner, 21, has been president of CSU Students for Life for more than a year and is named as plaintiff in the suit.

Faulkner told a local news station that the lawsuit “is about free speech.” 

She also said that the university routinely funds events for other groups without making the same requirements that are being imposed upon CSU Students for Life.

CSU Students for Life hosted the event on campus anyway, with funds raised by the organization rather than by the Diversity Grant.

“Universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not play favorites with some while shutting out others,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement.

“Colorado State University funded the advocacy of its preferred student organizations but has excluded Students for Life from consideration based purely upon the viewpoint expressed in its funding request to bring a speaker to campus. Because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, courts have repeatedly rejected this discriminatory treatment as unconstitutional.”

CSU spokesperson Mike Hooker told CBS Denver that they were not aware of the lawsuit until this week and that they are reviewing claims and issues raised, and will respond accordingly. 

Hooker says the university does not typically comment on pending litigation.

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