Campus Speech

Anti-Abortion Student Group Sues College over Protest and Pamphleting Policies

Chemeketa Community College
The McMinnville campus of Chemeketa Community College. 19 July 2013 Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons

An anti-abortion student group called Chemeketa Students for Life is suing Chemeketa Community College, located in Salem, Oregon, over its policies on protest and pamphleting on campus.

Filed in the United States District Court of the District of Oregon, the lawsuit claims that the school’s policies limit spontaneous expression, and leave students vulnerable to viewpoint discrimination.

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“The College claims to encourage free expression on campus, but if students wish to speak in any outdoor area at the College, they must first get approval from the Office of Student Retention and College Life,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the school’s policies caused the student group to hesitate before handing out flyers for an upcoming event on campus grounds. Though the event had already been approved by the school, the students thought the act of handing out flyers between classes might violate the school’s policies.

In addition to limiting the student’s ability to mobilize in a timely manner, the lawsuit argues that the college’s approval process, which requires students to disclose the content of the intended activity two weeks before its intended date, leaves students open to content and viewpoint discrimination. They argue that officials can apply subjective standards to applications.

Additionally, the lawsuit criticizes the school’s free speech zones, which limit expression to a handful of places on campus, thus barring students from speaking in “high-traffic areas” where their messages would be more likely to be heard.

Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a civil liberties group based in Arizona, the students are requesting compensatory and nominal damages, as well as a declaration that speech zones are unconstitutional.

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