- (Photo: The Christian Post)
Pro-life advocates won a major victory in the settlement of a free speech case brought against officials at the California-based Cypress College. Survivors, a pro-life group for young adults, filed suit in 2007, saying that their free speech had been inhibited by the college.
The Orange County District Attorney dismissed all the charges against members of the group after they were arrested for criminal trespassing. Not only were the charges dismissed, the judge declared the members “factually innocent,” and ordered the arrest records of everyone be erased from the Department of Justice criminal database.
Each of the three individuals arrested filed civil lawsuits against Cypress College, seeking $20,000 for each person and $25,000 from the city, college and district. The Life Legal Defense Foundation announced the settlement on Tuesday, including major changes to the school’s free speech policy, and payment to plaintiffs for both monetary damages and attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit stemmed from a February 2007 incident, when three members of the Riverside, Calif., group were arrested for refusing to stand in a yellow painted “free speech area” that was located next to a construction zone. The members were then arrested and accused of trespassing on property not open to the general public, although their demonstration took place in open areas on the college property.
Members of the group said campus police officers indecently frisked three of the young women who were demonstrating. None of the Survivor members were students at the college.
Allison Aranda, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation, told The Christian Post that the settlement was a tremendous victory for pro-life advocates.
“I think it’s a great victory for anyone who wants to go to public college campuses and exercise their right to free speech,” Aranda said. “It also served as an opportunity to educate the college administrations about the benefits of allowing civil discourse on campus.”
“The victory is a long time coming,” Katie Short of Life Legal Defense told LifeNews.com. “We must do something to prevent college administrators and officials from blatantly violating the Constitutional rights of young people on public school campuses simply because the administration disagrees with the message these young people speak.”
The mission statement on the Cypress College website states they are “dedicated to fostering diversity among its students, employees and community by cultivating and promoting inclusiveness, awareness, and acceptance. We are devoted to celebrating all differences by creating a campus climate that is welcoming and engaging.”
Additionally, the school states their “goal is to promote interaction and understanding in an ever increasing pluralistic society.”
Efforts to contact Cypress College were unsuccessful.