WATCH: Students sue university for refusing to host speaker with ‘Christian ideologies'

Campus Reform’s Kate Anderson spoke with ADF attorney Gregg Walters about the case.

A student group, Ratio Christi, at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) filed a lawsuit against the university in October 2021 for refusing to use student fees to pay for an event hosting Christian philosopher, Dr. Robert Audi.

The lawsuit states UNL rejected request for the event with Dr. Audi because it would violate the university’s Recognized Student Organization (RSO) Event Fund policy

The policy prohibits financing “political campaigns or speakers of a political and ideological nature.”

Campus Reform reporter Kate Anderson spoke with Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregg Walters to gain insight into the case. 

Walters argued that UNL’s ambiguous student fees ‘neutrality’ policy had infringed upon students’ First Amendment rights.

“The problem is…there is no one who speaks at anything that isn’t speaking politically or ideologically. And we know that student fees have been used to pay for such speakers in the past,” Walters explained.

[RELATED: Students must allocate funds in a ‘viewpoint-neutral manner,’ free speech org states]

The lawsuit described an alleged email sent to the student group that explained the funding would not be provided because of the events “Christian ideological nature.” Walters stated this was the true grounds for the lawsuit. 

“We’re alleging that Ratio Christi was denied funding, not necessarily at all because of the political or ideological nature of the event,” he clarified, “but because of the Christian ideological nature of the event, and that is viewpoint discrimination.”

The lawsuit lists a number of speakers hosted by UNL using student fees that discussed topics of an ideological nature. Walters went on to explain that by doing so UNL violated the supposed student fee neutrality standard they were holding Ratio Christi. 

“We lay out a number of events in our complaint in which we allege student fees were used to pay for speakers who expressed a number of ideologies whether on prison reform, gender ideology, a number of…political topics, so we do know that student fees have been used for that, and all we’re asking for is for the university to allow our student’s viewpoints to be funded with student fees,” he concluded.

[RELATED: College faces 1A lawsuit after tearing down anti-communist posters]

Walters says universities don’t have the right to “pick winners and losers” when students want to discuss a viewpoint not everyone agrees with. 

“A campus or university officials can’t pick winners and losers when it comes to viewpoints expressed within this marketplace of ideas and that’s exactly what they…did do by denying our client funding for this event,” Walters stated.

UNL’s Public Affairs Director Leslie Reed told Campus Reform, “We’re pleased with the partial dismissal of the case, and have no additional comment on the pending matters.”

Campus Reform reached out to Dr. Audi and will update this article accordingly. 

Watch the video above for the full interview.

Follow @kliseanderson on Twitter.