Chemeketa Community College and a pro-life student group recently agreed to resolve a free speech lawsuit.
Chemeketa Community College in Oregon recently agreed to pay $ 25,000 to settle a federal lawsuit with a pro-life student group. The student group sued the school on allegations that the college had “restricted freedom of speech to a small area of campus.” As part of the settlement, the college will also end its freedom of speech, which the student group has been grappling with.
Free speech flag; Image courtesy of John Marcotte via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org
The student group were the Chemeketa Students for Life. The Pro-Life group was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group. The lawsuit itself was filed back in November and argued that the college had “restricted free speech in the open air in two small areas of campus”. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) stated that “taxpayer-funded school policies limited students’ freedom of speech to just 1.5% of the school’s 100-acre campus”. In order to use the tiny space for free expression, students had to “give the facility two weeks’ notice before speaking in the assigned areas.” After learning what freedom of speech is all about, the school can stop the planned activity depending on the suit. As a result, “the policy prevented students from having informal conversations about their beliefs for life as opportunities arise on the outskirts of college campus,” the lawsuit went on.
In responding to the matter, ADF Legal Adviser Michael Ross said:
“The only permission students need to speak on campus is the first change… Chemeketa Community College’s previous policy restricted these freedoms by restricting students to so-called ‘language zones’ and requiring reservations weeks in advance . Fortunately, Chemeketa has agreed to revise these unconstitutional guidelines and ensure that all students are free to express themselves on campus. “
As part of the latest agreement, the school has 14 days to revise its free speech policy. In addition, students are now guaranteed the right to “two days for indoor activism each semester, with additional dates depending on availability”.
It is important to note that this is not the first time that the school’s freedom of speech has been challenged. In fact, the school retrospectively revised its guidelines in 2012 ADF put pressure on the school in response to preventing pro-life students from distributing leaflets outside a six-foot table that serves as a “free speech zone.” “
This latest lawsuit at Chemeketa Community College is not an isolated incident. In recent years, colleges across the country have been the focus of litigation over the First Amendment. A recent study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that “88% of university campuses restrict freedom of expression in some way”. In discussing the matter, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said:
“Across the country we see incredible opposition to the real-life speech of our student leaders and volunteers as they speak for the defenseless and educate their fellow students about abortion… But the law and constitution are clear on this matter: Public Schools Pro-Life Groups cannot be silenced or self-censored. We are grateful that Chemeketa Community College has made it clear that Students for Life – and all students – can participate in an open exchange of views and ensure that the entire college community has a “zone of free expression” for Pro-Life students and theirs Colleague is. “
Oregon College agrees to revise free expression guidelines and pay $ 25,000 after pro-life groups are sued
The Pro-Life student group lawsuit will end the unconstitutional language zone guidelines at Oregon College