College Must Pay Pro-Life Students $25,000 After Censoring Their Free Speech

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 11, 2021   |   4:28PM   |   Washington, DC

Pro-life college students won a legal victory recently after Chemeketa Community College agreed to change its policies restricting free speech on campus.

In the settlement, announced Friday, the college agreed to eliminate its free speech zones and the requirement that students request use of the zones two weeks in advance, The College Fix reports. It also agreed to pay $25,000 to Chemeketa Students for Life leaders Marcos Sanchez and Emma Howell for their attorneys’ fees.

“The only permit students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment,” said Michael Ross, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom who represented the students. “Thankfully, Chemeketa has agreed to revise these unconstitutional policies and help ensure that all students can engage in free expression on campus.”

The Oregon college is a public, taxpayer-funded school.

Sanchez and Howell, co-presidents of the student pro-life club, filed the lawsuit after an incident in February 2020. Their club planned a debate about physician-assisted suicide on campus, but the school restricted the pro-life students from promoting their event, according to Students for Life. The college also told the students that they could not hand out fliers promoting the free resources available at local pregnancy resource centers.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, the school’s unconstitutional policies restricted students to two tiny “free speech zones” that represented less than 1.5 percent of the campus and required students to request permission to speak in those zones two weeks in advance.

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“As part of a settlement ending a federal lawsuit Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Students for Life, the college agreed to revise its policies so that all students can speak freely and openly on campus,” the pro-life legal organization said in a statement.

Along with hosting educational events, the Chemeketa Students for Life club supports pregnant and parenting students. In May 2020, they donated diapers, baby wipes, baby clothes, school supplies and gift cards to a local program that provides support to families in need in the community.

Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins said pro-life students are doing amazing work, but they face incredible opposition on college campuses across the country.

“Across the nation, we are seeing incredible opposition to the pro-life speech of our student leaders and volunteers as they speak for the defenseless and educate their fellow students on abortion,” Hawkins said in a statement. “But the law and the Constitution are clear on the matter: Public schools cannot silence pro-life groups or force them to self-censor.”

Students for Life has more than 1,250 pro-life groups in all 50 states.