The public UC Berkeley is being sued by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of students looking to establish a libertarian student group on campus.
Students looking to establish a chapter of the Young American’s for Liberty group at UC Berkeley were denied on the basis that the group was too similar to another libertarian campus group. The legal complaint shows UC Berkeley maintains several progressive student groups with overlapping political aims.
“Many of the approved RSOs have overlapping missions and goals; some appear almost identical such as the ‘Cal Berkeley Democrats’ and ‘Students for Hillary at Berkeley,’ or ‘Progressive Student Association’ and ‘Socialist Alternative at Berkeley,’ or ‘Queer Alliance & Resource Center,’ the ‘Queer Student Union,’ and the ‘UNITY Resource Center,'” the complaint points out.
The suit aims specifically at a particular policy that allows Berkeley to refuse recognition to student groups that are similar to existing groups. “Berkeley maintains a policy that excludes student organizations from RSO status if the University deems the organization to be ‘too similar’ to a previously registered organization,” the complaint reads. “This discretion to discriminate is anathema to the First Amendment, and the marginalization of Young Americans for Liberty’s minority viewpoint not only offends the Constitution, it undermines the core of the University’s role in promoting the free exchange of ideas in the search for truth.”
The students are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for the university’s refusal to recognize their club. The suit asks for compensatory damages for the university’s violation of the student’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Most importantly, the suit asks for a “preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the Defendants, their agents, officials, servants, employees, and any other persons acting in their behalf from denying YAL status as a registered student organization or any of the benefits, privileges or access to speech forums pertaining to RSO [registered student organization] status.”
The lawsuit names UC System Chancellor Carol Christ as a defendant. This incident poses a threat to the credibility of Christ’s recent efforts to reclaim UC Berkeley as the home of the “free speech movement.”