A pro-life student group at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan is suing the school alleging its free speech rights were violated last spring when the university denied funding for a week of pro-life events.
The group Students for Life said that, as a registered campus organization, it should be entitled to a portion of student fees like other groups are. The student group said it sought $4,000 from the university’s student council for snacks, T-shirts, fliers, and publicity but said the request was denied. A smaller budget was submitted and likewise rejected, according to the group.
Students for Life’s lawsuit says the initial request was rejected because of “spiritual and religious references.” However, the pro-life group says that it has no specific religious affiliation.
Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins explained to CNA that the situation was “strange” because the Students for Life group received event funding from Wayne State in the past. The move to deny the group financial support clearly “reflects on the current student government,” she said.
Hawkins described the situation as “tragic” because the Students for Life group on the campus has always acted in a professional manner. There is “no reason for this at all,” she asserted.
The group reportedly wanted to hold a pro-life trivia game on a stage at a busy area of the Student Center North Commons but was told to use another area, the lawsuit further alleges. The events also included the opportunity to have a photo taken with a model of an unborn child.
In the lawsuit, Students for Life and group members Juliegha Norus and Mark Robertson are seeking to have the university’s student fees spending policy declared illegal. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.
“Access for these groups to funding and facilities must be provided without regard to the group's viewpoint. When a public university enforces a viewpoint-discriminatory policy, the school violates the Constitution,” the group’s attorney Joseph Martins told the Associated Press.
Kristan Hawkins said that this type of behavior by student governments is a tragic pattern that has been moving across college campuses in the United States.