Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Ball State University officials on behalf of a student organization denied funding because of its pro-life views. The university has applied a student activity fee policy in a way that unconstitutionally discriminates against the viewpoints of groups like Students for Life while favoring other campus groups with ideological views that university officials favor.
In February, BSU Students for Life applied to receive $300 from mandatory student activity fees to share educational resources with pregnant and parenting students. Officials denied Students for Life’s request because the organization advocates for pro-life views; however, the Student Activity Fee Committee distributed funding from the same pool to organizations that advocate for viewpoints administrators prefer, including Feminists for Action, Secular Student Alliance, and Spectrum.
“Public universities are supposed to provide a marketplace of ideas, but that market can’t function properly if the heavy hand of government promotes some views over others,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “While Ball State University pledges to ‘respect and learn from differences in people, ideas, and opinions,’ it has failed to respect or listen to Students for Life. The college’s unconstitutional actions treat these pro-life students as second-class, denying full participation in campus life while mandating every pro-life student pay more than $1,000 in student fees per year that help fund opposing viewpoints.”
The university gave power to the Student Activity Fee Committee to decide whether a group may be eligible to receive funding. The lawsuit, Students for Life at Ball State University v. Hall, points out that this sweeping authority allows them to deny recognition and funding for any reason, including unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. ADF attorneys explain that public universities cannot refuse to approve a student group without justification and must ensure recognition and student activity funding are approved in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
“Ball State University says it pledges to ‘value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community,’ but its student government is playing favorites and stifling free speech,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “If BSU wants to respect every member of its community, it will give Students for Life, along with other groups, equal footing. We support the free-speech rights of all students, encourage the open exchange of ideas, and ask that the rights of pro-life students be respected as their peers’ rights are.”
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Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization and currently serves more than 1,200 groups in colleges, high schools, and medical schools across the U.S.
Eric Bohnet, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for the club in the case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.