Boise State University has revised its speech policy in light of a lawsuit filed by the law firm of Students for Life of America (SFLA), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), last year on behalf of a pro-life student group. The university’s new speech policy no longer requires student organizations to post warning signs on campus for events school officials deem “controversial” and no longer limits literature distribution on campus. Because of the policy change, ADF and Boise State attorneys mutually agreed to end the lawsuit, Abolitionists4Life v. Kustra.
“Pro-life students should not be discriminated against or censored because university officials do not agree with their viewpoints,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which works with Abolitionists4Life. “Pro-life students have every right to host events on campus as do any other student. Universities are supposed to be beacons of free speech and tolerance, not discriminatory havens of censorship where the only views tolerated are those of liberal administrators.”
In April and May 2014, Abolitionists4Life hosted two different events, “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” and the Students for Life of America national campus tour, “What Has Roe Done for Us?,” which used images to communicate its pro-life message. A university official told the group that preemptive warning signs are required for events involving “controversial issues, specifically graphic pictures,” and that the events would not have been approved if the university knew there would be no warning signs.
“Universities cannot function as marketplaces of ideas if free speech requires a warning sign or is otherwise severely limited on campus,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “We commend Boise State University for acknowledging this by revising its speech policy so that students can speak more freely throughout campus without fear of punishment.”
Boise State University has allowed other groups to host events without warning signs, including Planned Parenthood, which distributed condoms on campus, and the Secular Student Alliance, which held “Does God Exist?” signs in open spaces on campus.
The university also prohibited the group from distributing fliers outside one of the school’s eight “speech zones,” which together are limited to less than one percent of the entire campus.