Court delivers setback for Ben Shapiro free speech suit

The Eighth Circuit denied an appeal from conservative plaintiffs on Monday in their lawsuit against the University of Minnesota.

Both YAF and ADF told 'Campus Reform' the groups are considering next steps in the suit after the opinion was delivered against their case.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently denied an appeal from conservative student groups at the University of Minnesota in a suit involving an event featuring Ben Shapiro. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had filed the lawsuit in July 2018 violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments on behalf of the student groups and Shapiro.

[RELATED: ADF and YAF conduct oral arguments in federal court after Ben Shapiro censored at University of Minnesota]

The October 4 opinion halted ADF and Shapiro’s pursuit of free speech charges against the university. 

That year, the university utilized its “Large Scale Event Policy” ahead of Shapiro’s speaking engagement, which was hosted by Students for a Conservative Voice and funded by Young America’s Foundation (YAF).  

That policy effectively moved the event with the conservative commentator to a limited capacity venue off campus that was smaller than the requested space. 

After requesting a room to hold 1,056 attendees, the university later capped the event to 500 people and forced the event to be held on the St. Paul campus.

Kara Zupkas, a spokesperson for YAF, told Campus Reform, “YAF is still considering its options following this decision. Free speech is a fundamental right, and YAF will always look to hold accountable schools and those officials who infringe on those rights.”

YAF’s 2020 request for oral argument had quoted UMN President Eric Kaler writing in a 2018 email to his chief-of-staff, “So have they actually invited Ben Shapiro? I do not want this in the middle of campus- West Bank is a better location.”

[RELATED: Stanford students claim Ben Shapiro presence puts them ‘at risk’]

Campus Reform also spoke to ADF after the October 4 opinion from the Eighth Circuit. 

“University officials don’t have the authority to suppress a particular viewpoint on campus simply because they anticipate some students who disagree with it may not respond well,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said. 

Langhofer added, “Labeling conservative speech as ‘controversial’ and then stifling it on campus prevents students from hearing different viewpoints. It is unfortunate that the 8th Circuit thinks that schools can avoid responsibility by changing their policies and we are considering our next steps.”

Campus Reform reached out to ADF and the University of Minnesota for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Editor’s Note: The attribution for the ADF quote has been corrected to Tyson Langhofer.