Cal State University Refused Pro-Life Students $500 for a Speaker. Now it Must Pay Them 50 Times More

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 5, 2020   |   1:36PM   |   San Marcos, California

Pro-life students at California State University at San Marcos won a victory for free speech recently after they said the school discriminated against their Students for Life club.

The university agreed to pay $240,000 in legal fees and change its policies to ensure that it does not discriminate against student clubs, the Catholic News Agency reports. Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro-life legal group that represented the students, and Students for Life of America announced the settlement Tuesday.

“Because of the initiative and courage of student leaders at Cal State-San Marcos, pro-life students at public universities across California will benefit from the administration’s policy reversal,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life. “Schools cannot use the power of the purse to punish students who value mothers as well as their preborn babies.”

The settlement is almost 500 times the amount that the university denied to the Students for Life group, according to The College Fix.

Students at CSU San Marcos filed the lawsuit in 2017, accusing the university of discriminating against certain student groups in the way it distributed funding. The Students for Life group had requested $500 to host a pro-life speaker on campus, but the university denied the request.

Meanwhile, the university gave $296,498 to the Gender Equity Center and the LGBQTA Pride Center, CNA reports.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge James Lorenz agreed that the university did discriminate in its disbursement of funds to student organizations, Courthouse News reports. Lorenz said the university branch that oversees student organizations did “not contain any express policy prohibiting viewpoint discrimination.”

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The settlement agreement includes a policy change to prevent future discrimination. According to the reports, the CSU Chancellor’s Office agreed to produce a new policy for all 23 campuses requiring viewpoint-neutral criteria for the distribution of funds to student organizations.

In addition to the new policy and legal fees, the university also agreed to pay $3,000 in damages to the Students for Life club and reimburse $300 in mandatory student fees to one of its former student leaders, according to the Fix.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton said they are pleased with the outcome of the case.

“Public universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not create elaborate and secretive funding schemes to fund their favorite groups while excluding opposing views from equal access,” Dalton said. “We’re grateful the district court rejected the university’s unfair, secretive, and discriminatory policy, and that the university has agreed to allocate student fees only in a viewpoint-neutral manner, instead of picking favorites.”