At Boise State University in Idaho, a campus organization — just one of many at the 22,000-student school — wanted to have its voice heard. At two events last year — one called “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” and another called “What Has Roe Done for Us?” — the pro-life Abolitionists4Life sought to display imagery of abortions. This was in line with their mission: to end it.
“We seek to raise awareness to our generation through equipping students to become abortion abolitionists who will courageously bring to light the suppressed issue of abortion in our society today,” the group’s Web site reads.
The university didn’t like the idea. In fact, an administrator insisted the group display warning signs about the imagery, as was supposed to be done at any campus event involving “controversial issues, specifically graphic pictures” — as Abolitionists4Life’s subsequent lawsuit against the school, claiming free speech violations, claimed.
Now, the university has settled with Abolitions4Life, paying the group $20,000 — $100 for damages and the rest for legal fees, as the Idaho Statesman reported.
“Pro-life students should not be discriminated against or censored because university officials do not agree with their viewpoints,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which works with Abolitionists4Life, said in a statement. “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.”
Indeed, as Reuters reported, the university had allowed other controversial events to go forward without warning signs, including a rally where Planned Parenthood distributed condoms and a secular student group’s distribution of flyers that read: “Does God exist?”
“Defendants also regularly permit fraternities, sororities, and off-campus organizations to distribute flyers in the open spaces of the campus discussing events, activities, and job opportunities,” the lawsuit read. “… Defendants did not require the foregoing groups to place warning signs around their expressive activities.”
Going forward, administrators said that no warning signs will be required at protests.
“Universities cannot function as marketplaces of ideas if free speech requires a warning sign or is otherwise severely limited on campus,” David Hacker, an attorney for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom and counsel for Abolitionists4Life, said.