Students for Life of America Chapter Files Lawsuit Against an Ohio University That Attempted to Warn Students Away from Pro-Life Speech

“The unnecessary obstacles students experienced at Miami University of Ohio, Hamilton sadly is all too common on campuses across the country,” said SFLA’s Kristan Hawkins. “Students peacefully trying to hold an exhibit that inspires conversation about their love and concern for preborn infants and their mothers should be protected.”

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins announced today that Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an SFLA college chapter, Students for Life at Miami University of Ohio at Hamilton v. Trustees of Miami University of Ohio in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio related to an incident earlier this month. At that time, school officials said that they would allow a

peaceful display of the Cemetery of the Innocents only if warning signs were placed around the campus. SFLA student groups often build a Cemetery of the Innocents display of crosses or tombstones on college campuses, representing lives lost to abortion. In this case, school officials wanted to characterize the students’ free speech display as a triggering event that should be negatively portrayed to the student body with signs.

Hawkins observed: “The unnecessary obstacles students experienced at Miami University of Ohio, Hamilton sadly is all too common on campuses across the country. Students peacefully trying to hold an exhibit that inspires conversation about their love and concern for preborn infants and their mothers should be protected.” 

This isn’t the first time that students in the Miami University of Ohio system found their free speech rights under attack. In October at the Oxford campus, a vandal destroyed a “When do Human Rights Begin?” display, and a Cemetery of the Innocents was destroyed.

“At one time, students from across the country and around the world came together on college campuses to debate the issues of the day and learn from each other,” said Hawkins. “But recently, administrators treat students like fragile children who don’t have the capacity for respectful and honest interaction. Not only is this unconstitutional, it sells this generation short as they should be taught how to engage in the free marketplace of ideas, and school officials should be building a culture capable of peaceful communication.”

“No university official has the authority to censor student speech simply because of how someone might respond to it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “Like all government officials, public university administrators have an obligation to respect students’ free speech rights. The First Amendment secures the freedom of all students to participate in the marketplace of ideas, and it prohibits university officials from imposing ‘trigger warnings’ that restrict what some students can say to spare the feelings of others.”

For more on violations of students’ free speech rights, check out this map of incidents from across the country.

For interviews, e-mail khamrick@studentsforlife.org