Ball State University agreed to a settlement with the school’s Students For Life of America (SFLA) organization after the group sued the university for refusing to cover its student activity costs.
The university agreed to pay the pro-life group $300 for its activity fees and $12,000 for attorney fees. The Sept. 4 settlement follows SFLA’s June lawsuit, which asks the university to pay for the costs of its Pregnant on Campus initiative providing aid to pregnant students and student parents.
The settlement “states that the resolution of the lawsuit is not an admission of liability by the university or a recognition of the validity of the plaintiff’s claims,” according to The Star Press.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1999 case, “Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth,” that universities may compel students to pay student activity fees, but only if they are distributed in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
“The university made no admission of liability, but it is very well established that viewpoint neutrality is the basic standard a university must adhere to,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal counsel Caleb Dalton told The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday.
“Ball State University says it pledges to ‘value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community,’ but its student government is playing favorites and stifling free speech,” said SFLA president Kristan Hawkins, according to a June 13 press release.
The SFLA press release states that Ball State’s Student Activity Fee Committee decides which groups will receive funding.
“In turning down BSU Students for Life request, the student government said they could not support ‘(a)ny Organization which engages in activities, advocacy, or speech in order to advance a particular political interest, religion, religious faith or ideology,'” the press release stated. (RELATED: University Under Fire Fro Scrubbing Away Pro-Life Sidewalk Chalkings)
“Public universities are supposed to provide a marketplace of ideas, but that market can’t function properly if the heavy hand of government promotes some views over others,” Dalton also said. “The college’s unconstitutional actions treat these pro-life students as second-class, denying full participation in campus life while mandating every pro-life student pay more than $1,000 in student fees.”
The ADF claims the university has paid for the student activity costs of other groups like Feminists for Action, Secular Student Alliance and Spectrum, the SFLA press release stated.
“Ball State University worked collaboratively with the students to promptly and amicably resolve the matter,” the university’s senior media strategist Marc Ransford told TheDCNF Monday. “Student organizations are a vibrant part of campus life. The University looks forward to working with all student organizations.”
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