University Tosses 'Speech Zone' Policy, Lets Pro-Life Students Speak Freely on Campus

The Kennesaw State University Social Science Building and Spaceship Earth.
The Kennesaw State University Social Science Building and Spaceship Earth. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Thejerm)

A university based in Georgia has agreed to end a "speech zone" policy following a lawsuit by a pro-life Christian student organization who had a display prohibited from a part of campus.

Earlier this year, Ratio Christi sued Kennesaw State University officials for denying them the right to use a space on campus for their pro-life display while other groups could do so.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm representing Ratio Christi, announced last Thursday that the university has agreed to change its "speech zone" policies and pay the student group and the ADF $20,100 to cover legal expenses.

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ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said in a statement that "Kennesaw State has done the right thing in ending the ability of officials to quarantine any student speech they deemed 'controversial' to a tiny, difficult-to-access part of campus."

"We hope that this settlement will prompt other public universities to eliminate similar unconstitutional policies," stated Barham.

"The First Amendment prohibits universities from restricting where students can speak, whether that restriction is based on what students intend to say or simply based on sparing the feelings of others who may disagree."

In 2016 and 2017, Ratio Christi of KSU sought to create a pro-life display that would be at a prime location on campus known as the "Campus Green."

However, on both occasions, the student group's display was reportedly considered too controversial and denied access to the "Campus Green" area, instead being relegated to the much smaller on-campus "Speech Zone."

In February, ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ratio Christi against University officials in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

"Defendants prohibit individual students from reserving space on campus and require registered student organizations ('RSO') to submit reservation requests between three and thirty days in advance (depending on the type of event, without clearly indicating which deadline applies). These policies give KSU officials unbridled discretion, both over whether to grant, deny, or modify an RSO's reservation request and over whether and how much to charge in security fees," read the suit in part.

"Defendants took these actions because of the content and viewpoint of Plaintiffs' expression. In taking these actions, they implemented the challenged University policies, violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, and inflicted irreparable injury upon them."

Across the country, pro-life student groups have found themselves at odds with public institutions of higher learning over issues of freedom of speech, expression, and funding for events.

As part of a legal settlement last month, Ball State University changed a policy that resulted in a pro-life student group being denied $300 in funding over viewpoint discrimination.

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