BOISE -- A group of anti-abortion activist students are suing Boise State University administrators, saying their First Amendment rights were violated when administrators made them post content warnings during events this year.
The lawsuit filed by Abolitionists4Life and Alliance Defending Freedom examines a question of freedom of speech and limitations on a public college campus.
The school has a number of policies governing student organizations and another set of policies that govern open spaces use. The university says its policies allow a broad array of viewpoints without interfering with others' rights or campus business. On the other hand, Abolitionists4Life says the policies allow administrators to single out groups for tougher scrutiny about where they can be and what they can say and display.
In April and May, the student organization held two events on the Central Quad: Survivors of Abortion Holocaust and What has Roe Done for Us?
The group says BSU's policies allowed administrators to restrict what they did during those events by keeping them in a reserved area, and requiring warning signs because posters included graphic abortion photos.
Abolitionists4Life says the policies violate free speech rights and aren't being applied uniformly to all student groups. The president of Students for Life of America, which works with more than 800 pro-life campus groups, says they have fought similar policies at other colleges.
College is a place where we should be able to have a civil discussion about hard issues. Hard issues like abortion. So what happened in April, and then in May is we saw the administration at Boise State clearly discriminate against pro-life students, said Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America.
Hawkins said during the Abolitionists4Life events, counter protestors and other organizations like Planned Parenthood were able to move about freely, distribute condoms and shout at the anti-abortion group.
If you're protesting people in that zone, like what happened to our Abolitionists4Life group, you can stand wherever, do whatever you want with no restrictions, Hawkins said. It's completely unfair, and discriminatory towards pro-life students.
The University's policy says administrators can require organizations to allow the public a choice about if they want to view material that may not be suitable for a general audience. The policies also require reservations for specific venues if organizations want to set up a display or advertised event.
Boise State's attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit, but the spokesman provided this statement:
Boise State University encourages and respects the constitutionally protected free speech of students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. University policies reflect numerous court opinions on 'time, place and manner' guidelines and other First Amendment considerations.
The group is primarily asking for policy changes, but also attorneys fees and $100 for violation of rights.
What we're seeking to do is to change the policies at Boise State to make it so that when the Abolitionists4Life group or any student group goes to hold an event, organize an activity on campus, they're not going to be unfairly discriminated against because somebody in the administration does not like what they're saying, Hawkins said.
BSU has not yet filed a formal response in court.