University of Maryland BC Hit With Lawsuit From Pro-Life Students on Free Speech

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

University of Maryland BC Hit With Lawsuit From Pro-Life Students on Free Speech Email this article
Printer friendly page

RSS Newsfeed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 7
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — The University of Maryland-Baltimore County received national attention last month for making an appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament. Now the school is the subject of a lawsuit from a pro-life student group that says the college denied the students their right to the same free speech other campus groups enjoy.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit last Wednesday in federal court Wednesday challenging the University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s speech zone and speech code policies.

The school’s Rock for Life club says campus officials prevented it from accessing the same public space other student groups can use.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden sent a statement about the case.

“Pro-life students shouldn’t suffer discrimination for expressing their beliefs,” Aden says.

“In this case, university officials are using an unconstitutional ‘speech code’ to censor and marginalize these students, even though these zones directly violate the First Amendment," he explained. "America’s colleges and universities should recognize the constitutional rights of pro-life students just as they do for other students.”

The case involves an April 17, 2007 incident involving UMBC student Alexander Vernet who had reserved space for the pro-life group to put up an abortion display.

University officials originally approved the request to set up in front of the University Center for the highest exposure.

Later, the University’s Office of Student Life informed Vernet it unilaterally moved the display to a patio area of the Commons building. Vernet reluctantly accepted the change even though it meant fewer students would see the pro-life display.

When the group began to assemble the display on April 30, a university official, backed by campus police, ordered the students to move it to a large vacant field between the Commons and the library, an area where few students would ever see it.

University police cited the speech zone policy, which allows school officials to “move an event to a different location without notice” as rationale for relocating the display.

The policy also prevents any speech that “creat[es] an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or working environment.”

“The university has clearly set up a system that allows them to restrict speech with which they disagree,” said Aden.

“We hope this lawsuit will restore a true ‘marketplace of ideas’ on campus so all groups, including pro-life groups, can enjoy the same access to exercise their First Amendment right," he told

The case is Rock for Life-UMBC v. Hrabowski and it has been filed n the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division.

Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund –