Campus Reform | Pro-life group couldn't promote its own event. The school's speech policy is why.

Pro-life group couldn't promote its own event. The school's speech policy is why.

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The Students for Life chapter at Chemeketa Community College is taking its school to court over the school’s free speech rules.

Specifically, the pro-life group at the Oregon school claims that a policy requiring students to request permission two weeks in advance in order to conduct demonstrations on campus is "unconstitutional," along with the existence of “free speech zones” on campus.  

The student group argues that the two-week notice makes it impossible to keep up with the changing nature of politics. They claim the school’s policy violates its right to free speech. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit legal advocacy organization, has provided legal assistance to the student group in its endeavor to sue the college.

[RELATED: Mississippi Bill Aims to Protect College Students’ Free Speech Rights]

Students for Life was hosting a debate about the morality of physician-assisted suicide. The members in the club received permission from the school to host the event, but the students wanted to promote the event outdoors between classes, as well as share information about local pregnancy resource centers. To avoid breaking the school’s rules, the group chose not to. 

The suit is designed to prove that Chemeketa’s two-week advance notice and speech zones policies are unconstitutional and that the school must remove this barrier to free speech to avoid violating students' rights.

[RELATED: Disturbing Number of Students Say Hate Speech is Not Free Speech, Study Says]

Michael Ross, attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom, expressed his thoughts on the upcoming case. 

“Colleges should be a marketplace of ideas. Our clients want to peacefully engage and persuade their peers about pro-life issues and support pregnant and parenting classmates. But the college is stifling their speech, and all students’ speech, by forcing students to obtain permission two weeks in advance just to speak in one of the two small "speech zones" on campus,” ADF attorney Michael Ross told Campus Reform, adding that the lawsuit is aimed at protecting the students’ First Amendment rights.

“The only permit a student needs to speak on campus is the First Amendment. We want the College to open up all of its outdoor common areas for spontaneous expression,” Ross Explained. “Doing so will protect and promote the First Amendment values that are central to our democracy.” 

“If the college respects students’ First Amendment rights, it will teach the next generation of voters, legislators, and leaders how to engage and debate important issues and the value of being able to express yourself freely without fear of censorship.”

Chemeketa spokeswoman Marie Hulett told Campus Reform that “Chemeketa endeavors to uphold the Constitutional and civil liberties of all student groups equally. We are looking into the claims and will have more information available as appropriate.” 

The school declined to comment on the lawsuit itself. 

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