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A pro-life student organization filed a lawsuit against a public university last Friday, claiming the school violated their club’s right to free speech.
Cowboys for Life say they are suing Oklahoma State University (OSU) because administrators allegedly ordered members of their group to stop handing out literature near the student union.
The pro-life student group also claims university officials refused to allow their group to erect anti-abortion displays on campus unless they were accompanied by warning signs.
Travis Barham, the litigation staff counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cowboys for Life, told Campus Reform he thinks the school broke the law by placing unreasonable restrictions on students’ First Amendment rights.
“The university doesn’t require this of other groups, they made up special restrictions for this pro-life group…simply because of the content and the viewpoint of what the Cowboys for Life were trying to say,” Barham said.
Barham added that the pro-life group was forced to put up their displays in an area of low student traffic and were required to put up warning signs around the displays. Barham believes that both of these requirements were put in place by the school so that fewer students would see the exhibit.
“Not only are they in an area where fewer people are going to see them, but now they have to put up these warning signs that essentially tell people to stay away,” said Barham.
Barham contends such requirements hinder free speech on campus and can be used to selectively target speech with which the university might disagree.
“They have policies that give university officials unlimited discretion on how to move events or how to restrict speech…the problem is that they have empowered University officials with broad, sweeping authority and then university officials use that authority to silence and stifle pro-life speech in this instance,” explained Barham.
Campus Reform could not reach a university official for comment, but a statement was released to a local news outlet in response to the lawsuit.
"As stated in OSU policy, the freedom of expression and assembly are the hallmark of an academic community. OSU offers students and others fair and equal opportunity for discussion. The university is reviewing the lawsuit."
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