Kutztown University changes unconstitutional policy that targeted pro-life student group

June 12, 2017 | No comments | Posted in First Amendment, Free Speech | Tags: , ,

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania has now fixed their previously-unconstitutional policy regarding chalk messages on sidewalks after purposely scrubbing away messages by a pro-life student group on campus.

Jeremy Samek

“The university setting should be one of the safest places for free speech,” says Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel for Independence Law Center and served as local counsel on this matter. “We commend Kutztown University’s decision to change course to begin protecting pro-life speech again, and hope their example is followed by other universities.”

Last March, members of the campus chapter for Students for Life of America, the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization, wrote life-affirming messages onto various campus sidewalks as part of National Pro-Life Chalk Day. Kutztown University employees then scrubbed away these messages, saying they were “just following orders.”

Kutztown University policy permits the use of chalk “on sidewalks and other uncovered walkways” but had expressly regulated the content of student expression by prohibiting, among other things, messages that “advertise activities, events, or groups…incompatible with the University’s Statement on Non-Discrimination.”

The university has now revised their policy to no longer include these unconstitutional limitations.

“Too frequently we see that public colleges and universities feel they can engage in censorship of a student group just because officials don’t agree with the viewpoint of those students,” said Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America. “We are very pleased that Kutztown University Students for Life will be able to share their message freely just as other students do.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a national non-profit legal organization, had previously sent a letter to Kutztown University calling out this unconstitutional censorship.

“The original chalking policy only permitted messages the university agrees with, but the revised policy eliminates that unconstitutional restriction and allows all views to be expressed,”  commented Travis Barham, ADF Legal Counsel. “We commend Kutztown University officials for revising their policy to respect freedom of speech for all students.”

Independence Law Center is a Pennsylvania-based pro-bono legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights. To financially support this work, click here to make a secure online donation.

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