“Viewpoint discrimination cannot be tolerated by pro-life Americans who are willing to fight to protect our right to speak up for the preborn,” said SFLA’s Kristan Hawkins.
ATLANTA, GA (09-10-2020) – Georgia Tech has agreed to change the unconstitutional policies that allowed its student government to deny funding for a speaking event sponsored by a Students for Life group featuring Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., because she is “inherently religious.” As part of a settlement ending a federal lawsuit Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the SFLA chapter, the university agreed to revise its policies to treat all student organizations fairly, regardless of viewpoint, and to pay $50,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
“Courageous student leaders across the nation face real opposition from their schools because they choose to stand up for the defenseless and peacefully educate their fellow students about protecting the preborn,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “The Constitution is clear that public universities can’t discriminate against students for their political or religious beliefs, and we are hopeful that Georgia Tech’s decisive policy changes will set an example for universities around the country to uphold all students’ constitutional rights.”
As SFLA previously reported, in the summer of last year, Students for Life at Georgia Tech submitted a request to the Student Government Association for funding the King event out of the pool of mandatory student activity fees available for such events. Such requests are routinely “fast-tracked” without any discussion, but when Students for Life club member Brian Cochran presented his request to the graduate and undergraduate houses of the SGA, they interrogated him on the content and viewpoints that Students for Life and King would present at the event.
SGA members stated that, because King has been involved in religious ministries, her life was “inherently religious,” and they could not separate that from the event about civil rights and abortion and would thus deny the application. They expressed concern that some students may be offended by King’s presence on campus and viewpoints she had expressed.
“Public universities are supposed to welcome diverse viewpoints and can’t treat some student groups worse than others simply because they disagree with what the students have to say,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “Georgia Tech’s previous policy allowed discrimination against Ms. King because she was accused of leading an ‘inherently religious’ life. Under such a standard, MLK himself would not be welcome on campus. Thankfully, by changing these policies, the university is respecting our clients’ First Amendment freedoms and better living up to its duty to offer a marketplace of ideas, where diverse viewpoints should be encouraged, not shut down.”
Since this event, SFLA has launched a BLACK PREBORN LIVES MATTER campaign, detailing Planned Parenthood’s racist roots, and taking our message to city streets and billboards across the country. Recently, SFLA participated in a free speech event in Baltimore in which BLACK PREBORN LIVES MATTER was painted on city streets. However, in an attempt at a similar event, two SFLA students were arrested for attempting to chalk that same message.
“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. Thankfully, Georgia Tech has shown its renewed commitment to these principles by taking quick corrective action to revise their policies so that all student organizations are treated fairly, regardless of political or religious views. We hope that other universities around the country will ensure their policies meet constitutional muster without the need for a lawsuit.”
For Interviews, e-mail Kristi Hamrick at [email protected]
Students for Life of America (SFLA) is the nation’s largest, pro-life, youth organization. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA, SFLA serves more than 1,240 groups on college and university, middle and high school, medical and law school campuses in all 50 states. Student pro-life organizations work to confront policies on their campuses to support pregnant and parenting students, to end Planned Parenthood’s relationships with schools and communities, and to change minds of their peers about abortion. SFLA has more conversations with those most targeted by the abortion industry every day, week, and year than any other pro-life outreach in the world and mobilizes the Pro-Life Generation to confront abortion at the local, state and national levels daily. Every week, Students for Life entities reach more than 2 million people across social media platforms to have nearly 200,000 digital conversations with the most engaged pro-life online audience in the world.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.