SAN MARCOS, California, February 5, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-life club at the California State University (CSU) campus of San Marcos has achieved a major legal victory, after a settlement agreement required their university to change its policies to no longer discriminate against pro-life organizations and pay the pro-lifers’ $240,000 in legal fees and $3,000 in damages.
The Students for Life (SFL) chapter had brought a federal lawsuit against the university. They claimed that they were denied university funding to host pro-life speakers, while mandatory student government fees were being used to sponsor the so-called Gender Equity Center and LGBTQA Pride Center.
Students at the university are required to pay mandatory fees to the student government. From those fees, the Gender Equity Center and LGBTQA Pride Center was reportedly receiving nearly $300,000 annually with no strings attached.
In contrast, other student clubs, including Students for Life, have only been allowed to apply for $500 per semester, which cannot be used for honoraria or speaker fees.
“In the 2016-2017 academic year, the Gender Equity Center and the LGBQTA Pride Center received a combined $296,498 to funds its activities—57 times more than all other 100 student groups combined—compared to the less than $6,000 that was actually distributed to all 100 other student groups,” read a statement from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life student group.
In August 2019, a federal court ruled that the university’s policies unconstitutionally discriminated against views the university didn’t favor.
As part of the settlement CSU, the largest four-year university system in the country, has agreed its revise policies so as not to discriminate in favor of particular viewpoints across all of its 23 campuses. Former SFL-San Marcos president Nathan Apodaca has also been awarded a refund of his $300 mandatory student government fees.
The settlement states that the student government is now required to adopt “viewpoint-neutral standards” for the allocation of mandatory student fees to any registered student organization “that involves viewpoint expression.” They must comply with the Supreme Court’s 2000 ruling in a similar case, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth.
The student government must not “discriminate against any funding request based on the viewpoint to be expressed by the RSO or proposed event.” If funding applications are “denied or reduced” then reasons must be given for the decision, as well as a “right of prompt appeal.”
“Just because an idea might offend us doesn't mean it's wrong and just because we're completely okay with a certain idea doesn't mean it's right,” Apodaca said in a video produced by ADF when the lawsuit began back in 2017.
“Ultimately, our clients’ goal was to ensure the policies were changed and all students’ freedoms are protected,” Caleb Dalton, the ADF legal counsel, told The College Fix.
In a statement announcing the settlement, Dalton said: “Public universities should encourage all students to participate in the free exchange of ideas, not create elaborate and secretive funding schemes to fund their favorite groups while excluding opposing views from equal access.”
The settlement agreement reportedly bars the Gender Equity Center and LGBTQA Pride Center from funding via mandatory student fees, retroactive to July 1, 2019. The student government may not use mandatory student fees “unless and until” it adopts viewpoint-neutral criteria for funding applications.
In last year’s federal court ruling that the university’s policies were unconstitutionally discriminatory, Judge James Lorenz’s ruled against “qualified immunity” for CSU Chancellor Timothy White and then-President Karen Haynes of CSUSM. This means that if a settlement hadn’t been reached, they could have been held personally liable.
Dalton said that this ruling gave the plaintiffs “the leverage to make this [the settlement] happen.”
He added: “Thankfully, the end result is a change of policy, not only on the San Marcos campus, but a directive from the Chancellor that the entire Cal State system review and revise its policies.”
“Public universities have no right to use their power, including mandatory student fees, to fund speech they prefer while blocking speech they don’t like,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.
“Because of the initiative and courage of student leaders at Cal State-San Marcos, pro-life students at public universities across California will benefit from the administration’s policy reversal. Pro-life students should have every opportunity available to them that pro-abortion students enjoy, and anything less is a failure on the part of the university to abide by the First Amendment. Schools cannot use the power of the purse to punish students who value mothers as well as their preborn babies.”