The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) has settled a lawsuit with Students for Life of America (SFLA) after the group was denied funding to bring a prominent pro-life speaker to the campus. As part of the settlement, the university is changing its policy going forward to ensure that all student organizations will be treated fairly, regardless of viewpoint. The school must also pay $50,000 to SFLA, as well as attorney’s fees.
SFLA’s Georgia Tech chapter hoped to invite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, to speak on campus in the fall of 2019. The group approached the Student Goverment Association with a request for $2346 to cover the fees of the event. Because all students at Georgia Tech pay mandatory activity fees which are used to cover various events through the year, it is customary for groups like SFLA to receive funding. However, instead of providing the money, student goverment leaders rejected the request on the basis that King, a known pro-life advocate, is “inherently religious.”
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Students for Life in its suit. “Public universities are supposed to welcome diverse viewpoints and can’t treat some student groups worse than others simply because they disagree with what the students have to say,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “Georgia Tech’s previous policy allowed discrimination against Ms. King because she was accused of leading an ‘inherently religious’ life. Under such a standard, MLK himself would not be welcome on campus. Thankfully, by changing these policies, the university is respecting our clients’ First Amendment freedoms and better living up to its duty to offer a marketplace of ideas, where diverse viewpoints should be encouraged, not shut down.”
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins also praised the ruling. “Courageous student leaders across the nation face real opposition from their schools because they choose to stand up for the defenseless and peacefully educate their fellow students about protecting the preborn,” she said in a statement. “The Constitution is clear that public universities can’t discriminate against students for their political or religious beliefs, and we are hopeful that Georgia Tech’s decisive policy changes will set an example for universities around the country to uphold all students’ constitutional rights.”
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