Pro-life group celebrates legal victory over 'unconstitutional' campus policy
- In 2017, Students for Life at California State University San Marcos filed a federal lawsuit against the university after being denied $500 of student activity funding for a speaker event.
- The school was using the same fund to bankroll LGBTQ and Gender Studies centers to the tune of almost $300,000.
- This week, a federal judge ruled in favor of the pro-life group, requiring the university to change its policies surrounding fund allocation.
A federal court has sided with a pro-life student group at California State University-San Marcos after the group accused the school of viewpoint discrimination via the disbursement of student fees.
With the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Students for Life at CSUSM filed a federal lawsuit against the university in 2017 after the school denied the group $500 of the mandatory fees charged to all students to host a pro-life speech by University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor Mike Adams.
Although the school claimed that these funds were not available for the purposes of hosting speakers, exceptions were reportedly made for other groups. The same year, the school granted $296,498 from the same pool to the Gender Equity Center and the LGBQTA Pride center for speakers and activities. That number made up more than 21 percent of the total mandatory student activities fees that year.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the pro-life group, determining that the student fee disbursement process at CSUSM was not “viewpoint-neutral,” and therefore unconstitutionally mistreated “unpopular viewpoints.”
The same ruling stated that the Gender Equity Center and LGBTQA Pride Center may not receive any student fee funding “until specific and detailed standards guiding decision-making [are] adopted” in order to ensure that disbursement decisions are “unrelated to a program’s content.” Until “viewpoint-neutral regulations” are established, funding projects with money from students who ideologically object to the projects’ content is unconstitutional, according to the judge.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins commended the decision in a Thursday statement, asserting that “public universities have no right to use their power, including mandatory student fees, to restrict speech they don't agree with or particularly like,” in a press release obtained by Campus Reform.
“Thankfully, the court agrees that forcing students to pay into a system that treats their peers unfairly is a disservice to the entire Cal State-San Marcos student body and flatly unconstitutional. Pro-life students should have every opportunity available to them that pro-abortion students have, and anything less is a failure on the part of Cal State-San Marcos to abide by the First Amendment,” Hawkins added.
“Public universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not create elaborate and secretive funding schemes to award their favored few with first-class status while denying even economy class to opposing views,” said ADF Senior Counsel Caleb Dalton, who noted that CSUSM “spared no expense to fund the advocacy of preferred student groups” while denying SFL’s modest $500 request, also in the press release.
“But yesterday, the district court correctly declared, ‘These 'backroom deliberations' are exactly the type of considerations the First Amendment is designed to prevent. Nothing prevents these officials from encouraging some views while suppressing others through cosponsorship funding,’” Dalton said. “We’re grateful the district court has rejected this unfair and discriminatory policy as unconstitutional.”
CSUSM insisted that they “remain committed to fostering an academic climate where diverse ideas and views can be presented and discussed,” in a statement to Courthouse News.
“The court agreed that Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) did not discriminate against Students For Life due to its political or religious views. The university recognizes, however, the court’s conclusion that the process through which ASI funding decisions are reached needs to be improved and better defined,” the university said.
Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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