University of Alabama officials last week removed a pro-life display from the Ferguson Student Center without warning, citing the display’s potentially offensive nature as the reason for the decision. Now the students responsible for the display, members of the pro-life group Bama Students for Life, are fighting back and asking for the University to respect their 1st Amendment rights.
A member of the group took the following video when confronting the University official responsible:
Yesterday, the group, which is currently represented by The Alliance Defending Freedom, provided a letter to University officials condemning their censorship of pro-life voices at UA, and requesting that the University correct their wrongful early termination of the group’s display.
The letter cites US Supreme Court case Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393, 409 (2007), which prohibits educational institutions from prohibiting free-speech that they may find offensive.
“Universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not arenas for censoring particular viewpoints just because someone feels offended,” said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We support Bama Students for Life and look forward to continuing to working with them to ensure that their constitutional freedoms are protected.”
The group believes they were operating within the University’s display case rules, and had otherwise gone through the correct channels to have their material displayed for their reserved amount of time.
As a public university, the University of Alabama has very little to hide behind when it comes to excuses for restricting the Constitutional rights of their students. And this is not the first time UA has been condemned for attempting to silence student voices it doesn’t like.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) lists UA as a “red light” school on their scale of individual rights. “A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech,” FIRE explains on their website.
FIRE lists numerous instances in which they believe the University of Alabama infringed upon the rights of its students expressing views across the ideological spectrum. Examples include ordering a pro-choice group to get a permit for non-disruptive expression or face arrest; “disparate treatment of conservative organizations;” and “attempt[ing] to limit freedom of speech and right to petition.”
A spokesperson for the University of Alabama told Yellowhammer that the incident has compelled them to review their policies.
“The University of Alabama respects our students’ First Amendment rights to express their opinions,” said Cathy Andreen, the University’s Director of Media Relations. “As a result of this incident, we are reviewing our guidelines for the display boards in the student center.”