Pro-life group wins settlement with Oklahoma State University
- Cowboys for Life wanted to put up displays near the Student Union; OSU restricted them to a less trafficked area of campus because some could find the signs offensive.
- Members attempted to pass out literature near the Student Union; the university told them to leave or post warning signs.
- The university launched an investigation claiming members had violated the Student Code of Conduct.
A pro-life student group has won a settlement to protect its freedom of speech at Oklahoma State University (OSU).
In 2012, Cowboys for Life wanted to erect displays near the Student Union, an area which sees a high amount of traffic; university officials denied the request on the grounds that the displays could offend some students. Instead, OSU consigned the displays to an area of the campus that would was less trafficked and mandated the group post warning signs.
Members of Cowboys for Life then attempted to pass out literature near the Student Union. University officials ordered them to leave or put up additional warning signs. Officials later launched an investigation, claiming that Cowboys for Life had violated the OSU Student Code of Conduct.
Cowboys for Life filed suit against OSU last year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based legal ministry, represented the group.
In the settlement reached last week, OSU agreed to reform its policies and practices in order to respect students’ protected freedom of speech and to treat Cowboys for Life as it treats other recognized student organizations. In addition, the university withdrew its verbal warnings against the group and agreed to pay for the group’s attorney fees.
“Universities should promote the free exchange of ideas, not exile views they don’t like to isolated places on campus,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham.
“This settlement ensures that Oklahoma State officials will not have free reign to censor students. We commend OSU for changing its policies to ensure that student groups like Cowboys for Life who hold displays and distribute literature on campus will not be restricted simply because they present a point of view that some people might not like.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SteveLarson