Spokane, Washington College Sued After Discrimination Against Pro-Lifers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 11, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Spokane, Washington College Sued After Discrimination Against Pro-Lifers

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 11
, 2009

Spokane, WA (LifeNews.com) — Two colleges in eastern Washington are the subject of a lawsuit from pro-life students who said they became the victims of discrimination. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life law firm, file suit Monday against Community Colleges of Spokane and Spokane Falls Community College officials.

The suit says the two colleges violated the constitutional rights of pro-life students.

SFCC officials threatened Beth Sheeran and members of a student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus.

College officials claimed the event would be “discriminatory” because it would not include a pro-abortion viewpoint.

“Christian students shouldn’t be threatened, silenced, and discriminated against for attempting to share their beliefs on public college campuses,” ADF attorney Heather Gebelin Hacker told LifeNews.com Wednesday.

“But this school goes beyond censorship to actually try to compel the students make statements they don’t believe. Such a requirement is nothing short of Orwellian," Hacker added.

The firm indicated SFCC Director of Student Funded Programs Heather McKenzie rejected Sheeran’s request to hold a pro-life event on campus on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The event would have involved flier distribution and materials posted in an announcement display case in the student center.

McKenzie said college policy prohibits one-sided events and expressive displays on campus and that the pro-life display would not be allowed because it did not include any pro-abortion viewpoints.

As a member of SFCC’s “Stop the Hate” committee, McKenzie told Sheeran that her “biased” event fell under the program’s jurisdiction because of its “discriminatory” pro-life message and because someone might construe statistics cited in their literature — breaking down the number of abortions by ethnic group — as hate.

SFCC Associate Dean of Student Services and “Stop the Hate” committee chair Gregory Roberts eventually told Sheeran that the group could hold the event if its members voted in favor of it.

After a vote, ADF tells LifeNews.com that Roberts, McKenzie, and the group’s faculty advisor, Stormy Kurtz, went to a club meeting and intimidated the students into not holding the event.

Kurtz reportedly told the students that their flier was “offensive” and that their event violated the district’s “Stop the Hate” policy and Washington law. She added that the students would face expulsion if they “offended” anyone.

Out of fear of disciplinary action, Sheeran and the fellowship never held the event.

ADF-allied attorney Jeffrey Smith of The Smith Law Group in Spokane is local counsel in the case. The lawsuit is Sheeran v. Shea and it was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund – https://www.telladf.org

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