SPOKANE, WA, September 28, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Community Colleges of Spokane and Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) officials agreed to a court order Thursday that settles a lawsuit filed after they attempted to silence the pro-life message of a student group.
SFCC officials threatened student Beth Sheeran and other members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus. The information Sheeran and the others were sharing with fellow students was deemed “discriminatory” by the college since it did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint.
The agreed-upon order eliminates or revises the problematic policies and programs that led to the unfair treatment of the student organization.
“Christian pro-life students shouldn't be silenced, discriminated against, and threatened with expulsion for attempting to share their beliefs on public college campuses,” said Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker with the Alliance Defence Fund (ADF) Center for Academic Freedom. The ADF represented Sheeran in the case.
“We are pleased that the college officials have agreed to change their unconstitutional policies and programs so that pro-life students can voice their viewpoints, just like any other group of students on campus.”
An official rejected Sheeran's request to hold a pro-life event on campus on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade that involved flier distribution and materials posted in a display case in the student center. The official said college policy prohibited one-sided events and expressive displays on campus and that the pro-life display would not be allowed because it did not include any pro-abortion viewpoints.
Another administrator later told Sheeran that the group could have the event as long as they voted on it; but after they did so, the club's faculty advisor told the students that their flier was “offensive” and that their event violated the district's “Stop the Hate” policy – as well as state law. The advisor said the students could face expulsion if they “offended” anyone. Sheeran and the club never held the event.
The order issued by the court requires the college district to revise its policies and procedures, requires revision of certain Washington state administrative codes, and modifies the “Stop the Hate” program's unconstitutional provisions.