An administrator at the University of Alabama removed the pro-life display of Bama Students for Life last week without notification, claiming that some students found the display “offensive.”
The display, which featured abortion-related facts, photos of women who died as a result of abortion, and two small pictures of aborted babies, was among numerous other displays by other student organizations.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Bama Students for Life, which registered a formal complaint about the incident with the university on Tuesday.
In the letter, the group states that they complied with proper procedures and obtained permission to use the display case. In fact, they say their request was approved without any difficulty. They add:
However, on Thursday morning, we discovered that our display had been removed by university employees. We were directed to Ms. Donna Lake’s office, where she explained that she had received complaints about our pro-life display. Ms. Lake claimed that according to “policy,” displays cannot be “offensive” or “graphic.” She said that we were “lucky” to have been allowed to have it up for as long as we did.
Claire Chretien, president of Bama Students for Life, recorded the university official on video claiming that university policy allows her to remove displays that contain “offensive or graphic material.”
Bama Students for Life observed that the university permits other types of speech by other students and groups that others would find “offensive” or “graphic,” such as an ad for the UA Theatre & Dance program’s presentation of “Blood Wedding,” the poster for which states the event is “For Mature Audiences” and features bloodstained glass over a photo of a bride and groom.
The group noted that a university art gallery depicted a student painting showing “male full frontal nudity,” and that other student organizations were permitted to display information about women’s health, safety issues, and the consequences of sex.
“Universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not arenas for censoring particular viewpoints just because someone feels offended,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Matt Sharp. “We support Bama Students for Life and look forward to continuing to working with them to ensure that their constitutional freedoms are protected.”
“This incident is yet another all-too-common example of university administrations attempting to silence speech with which they or others disagree,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which honored Bama Students for Life as its 2014 Group of the Year. “Bama Students for Life deserves to have its rights protected, and we look forward to the university righting this wrong.”