ATLANTA – Georgia Tech has agreed to change the unconstitutional policies that allowed its student government to deny funding for a speaking event featuring Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., because she is “inherently religious.” As part of a settlement ending a federal lawsuit Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Students for Life, the university agreed to revise its policies to treat all student organizations fairly, regardless of viewpoint, and to pay $50,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
“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 at Georgia Tech, including members of Students for Life, pay mandatory student activity fees which the Student Government Association uses to fund all other organizations’ events on campus. However, when the pro-life club sought funding for their speaking event featuring King, SGA members interrogated the club on the content and viewpoints that King would present at the event. The student government denied the funding request stating that, because King has been involved in religious ministries, her life was “inherently religious,” and they could not separate that from the event about civil rights and abortion.
“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. Thankfully, Georgia Tech has shown its renewed commitment to these principles by taking quick corrective action to revise their policies so that all student organizations are treated fairly, regardless of political or religious views. We hope that other universities around the country will ensure their policies meet constitutional muster without the need for a lawsuit.”
“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,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “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.”
In light of the settlement agreement reached in Students for Life at Georgia Tech v. Regents of the University System of Georgia, ADF attorneys voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit Thursday.
Students for Life of America is a national pro-life organization dedicated to training and equipping students to lead local pro-life student groups at high schools and universities. It has more than 1,250 groups in all 50 states.
- Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.