by Steven Ertelt
May 8, 2007
Rapid City, SD (LifeNews.com) — A pro-life organization that conducts outreach to college students says a South Dakota university prevented them from appearing on campus on Monday. Campus Life Tours had hoped to share the pro-life perspective with students at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
However, CLT officials tell LifeNews.com that university officials blocked their team from setting foot on campus and had one member of the group arrested.
CLT complains that the SDSMT’s actions infringed on their free speech rights.
Early Monday morning, CLT participant Joey Cox, 18, called the college administration to inform them of the group’s visit and request information on the school’s free speech policy.
Julie Smoragiewicz, Vice President for University and Public Relations, said previous permission must be attained two weeks in advance and threatened removal of the team.
When asked for the reasoning behind that length of time Smoragiewicz stated: "It’s been a long-standing policy… it’s just something that we’ve done in terms of making it convenient."
But CLT team member Brandon Davis says most colleges and universities are open to having a forum for public debate and discussion about important issues like abortion.
"For the past month, we have been on the road for over a thousand miles stopping at dozens of colleges to peacefully share information in a public forum, giving only a couple hours notice," he told LifeNews.com in a statement. "This ‘long-standing policy’ spits in the face of our founding fathers and is a blatant violation of our constitutional right to free speech."
Davis said the group obtained a copy of the policy and found out that it applies only to solicitation on campus and makes no mention of free speech activities without selling something.
Upon the CLT team’s arrival to the school, a blockade of administrators, police officers, and a squad car lined the sidewalk to bar entrance to the campus, the group indicated.
Kortney Blythe, director of the tours for CLT, described what happened.
"No sooner had we pulled into visitor parking on campus, when a squad of administration and police swarmed our van demanding for us to leave," she said. "I tried negotiating with them, but obviously this college has a problem with peaceful First Amendment activity."
College administrators refused to discuss the situation with Blythe, and ignored warnings regarding the illegality of their actions. She attempted to reason with both the administrators and police officers.
"The Constitution was thrown out the window and replaced with campus regulations that didn’t even apply," she said.
"The Campus Life Tour has visited dozens of schools this semester, and we have demonstrated our willingness to work with school officials time and time again," says Blythe.
"The lives of thousands of preborn babies are on the line, and we will not be bullied into leaving a campus before we even have a chance to speak to the students about the tragedy of abortion," she added.
In spite of Blythe’s negotiation attempts, police ignored the law and arrested Cox, claiming he trespassed on the campus.
The group indicated that it will pursue a civil lawsuit against the school for First Amendment violation, false arrest and the misuse of the time, place, and manner restrictions as determined by the United States Supreme Court.
Officials from the university did not respond to requests for comment from LifeNews.com by press time.
Campus Life Tours rallies a team of young people ages 18 – 30, who present the pro-life message to high school and college students across the country.