Obama-appointed judge sides with UMN in Ben Shapiro free speech lawsuit

  • University of Minnesota officials forced Ben Shapiro to move to a much smaller speaking venue compared to what he was originally promised.
  • While UMN claimed they did it for “safety concerns,” this prevented many students from being able to attend Shapiro’s speech.
  • Shapiro, Young America’s Foundation, and Students for a Conservative Voice filed a free speech lawsuit against UMN, which the school won.

An Obama-appointed federal judge sided with the University of Minnesota in a free speech lawsuit brought by a conservative group.  

In early 2018, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was scheduled to speak on the University of Minnesota campus to a large crowd of students. But, in a sudden turn of events, UMN officials moved Shapiro to a much smaller venue on the St. Paul campus, meaning significantly fewer students were able to attend compared to what was initially promised. 

"university officials do not have the authority to suppress viewpoints simply because they disagree with those views. Unfortunately, the court in our case...failed to respect that core principle of both the First Amendment and higher education"   

[RELATED: Gonzaga allows Ben Shapiro to speak...with 'conditions']

Young America's Foundation and Students for a Conservative voice, the two groups that were sponsoring the Shapiro event, filed a lawsuit against UMN, claiming that it sent him to a smaller venue because of the school's own political biases. UMN officials argued that he was moved as a safety measure. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, which litigated the case, the school justified the action by saying the speech would be “controversial and a security concern," as Campus Reform reported in 2018

YAF spokesman Spencer Brown responded to the outcome of the case, stating, "university officials do not have the authority to suppress viewpoints simply because they disagree with those views. Unfortunately, the court in our case—Young America’s Foundation v. Kaler—failed to respect that core principle of both the First Amendment and higher education."

"When universities are able to disfavor viewpoints, everybody loses. The First Amendment applies equally to all Americans, regardless of ideology, and nobody should support government officials discriminating based on differing viewpoints with no accountability," Brown added.

YAF and ADF "are now evaluating a possible appeal," he said.

Campus Reform reached out to Speech First President Nicole Neily for her thoughts. 

“I respectfully disagree with the decision,” Neily stated. “But it certainly doesn’t have implications for the future of free speech on college campuses! This is just one opinion, issued by one district court judge. There have been hundreds of lawsuits brought by organizations on behalf of students and student organizations across the country – many of which have turned out well.”

[RELATED: BU: 'Reasonable security' for Ben Shapiro event means cutting audience size in half]

“Research by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education shows that nearly 9 out of 10 schools have at least one policy that substantially impacts student or faculty speech and expression – which means that sadly, there are countless problems from coast to coast in higher education, from community colleges and trade schools up to the Ivy League,” she explained. 

“If public schools won’t respect the First Amendment and private schools break the promises they make to students about free expression, they need to be held accountable in the courts. As the saying goes, ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @LeanaDippie



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Leana Dippie
Leana Dippie | Florida Campus Correspondent

Leana Dippie is Florida Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. She is a student at the University of Florida double-majoring in Political Science and English. Leana is involved with numerous law-related organizations, political-related organizations, and honors societies on campus. She is an intern for a presidential campaign and has become increasingly involved in the political world over the past year - recently being named an official Turning Point USA Ambassador.