OAKLAND, Calif. – A pro-liberty student organization filed a federal lawsuit against University of California at Berkeley officials Monday for refusing to officially recognize the group. UC-Berkeley claims that the Young Americans for Liberty chapter is “too similar to Cal Libertarians,” a recognized club on campus, but the lawsuit contends that the school’s decision explicitly discriminated against YAL on the basis of its pro-liberty views.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the chapter further explain in the lawsuit that the university has historically approved many other student groups that appear to be similar, such as “Cal Berkeley Democrats” and “Students for Hillary at Berkeley,” “Progressive Student Association” and “Socialist Alternative at Berkeley,” and “Queer Alliance & Resource Center” and the “Queer Student Union.”
“Public universities are supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas’ for students, but that can’t happen when administrators are allowed to pick and choose which student organizations will be recognized based on the students’ views,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “By leaving decisions on whether a student group is ‘too similar’ to another club in the hands of a university official who isn’t required to follow any viewpoint-neutral standards, UC-Berkeley has allowed for unconstitutional discrimination.”
Young Americans for Liberty at Berkeley is a group of students who share a mutual respect for freedom and the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. The group is not political, or partisan, and its members span the spectrum of political identities.
Because UC-Berkeley has excluded Young Americans for Liberty from Registered Student Organization status and all the benefits that accompany it, the group cannot reserve space, invite speakers, or access the pool of funds they have paid into which is reserved for student organizations and the speakers and events they sponsor.
“Instead of fostering a marketplace of ideas, UC-Berkeley is using government regulation to limit exposure to ideas—repressing rather than expanding freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s judges, legislators, and voters, and UC-Berkeley is communicating to that generation the troubling message that government gets to decide which views can be expressed.”
“It is absurd to think that other Berkeley groups are lighting the campus on fire and throwing rocks through windows, but YAL’s efforts to peaceably promote the message of liberty are being shunned by university administrators,” said Young Americans for Liberty President Cliff Maloney. “This incident is exactly why Young Americans for Liberty launched the national ‘Fight for Free Speech’ campaign. All students, regardless of ideology, should be guaranteed their First Amendment right to free speech.”
Michael L. Renberg of the Fresno law firm Parichan, Renberg & Crossman is serving as local counsel in the case, Young Americans for Liberty at University of California, Berkeley v. Napolitano, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division.