Administrators at the University of Alabama removed a display from the university’s pro-life group, Bama Students for Life, after student complaints that the display was “offensive” and “graphic.”
Bama Students for Life had reserved the display case from January 8 to February 7, but when students walked by on February 6 they found the case empty. They were not informed that the display would be taken down, nor do they know when it vanished.
“You guys were lucky to get it up there as long as you did,” an administrator told President of Bama Students for Life Claire Chretien when she inquired about the missing poster. “If we get a complaint we have to take it down. If it upsets somebody we have to take it down.”
The student display contained information about abortions, arguing that the procedure is legal, but neither safe nor rare. It contained a picture of Kermit Gosnell along with two small photos of aborted babies and one picture of a woman who died from an abortion.
Attorneys from The Alliance Defending Freedom are representing Bama Students for Life, which has decided to file a formal complaint to the university about the alleged violation of their free speech rights. As the Alliance points out, that the university’s display case policy does not bar “offensive” or “graphic” content.
In a letter to the university, Bama Students for Life argue that the removal of their pro-life display in the Ferguson Center violates their First Amendment free speech rights. “The Ferguson Center permits all kinds of speech by other students and student groups that many people would find ‘offensive’ or ‘graphic,’” the letter said.
In one instance, a dance presentation advertised an event “for mature audiences” entitled “Blood Wedding” using a poster that depicted blood-stained glass superimposed on a picture of a bride and a groom. In another instance, the Ferguson Center Art Gallery displayed a student painting showing full-frontal male nudity.
“We’re not seeking for anyone else’s display to be taken down at all,” Matt Sharp, an attorney from The Alliance to Defending Freedom defending the pro-life students tells me. “What Bama students For Life seek is the same rights everyone else has.”
“If the university continues to not allow our clients to put up a display,” Sharp adds, “we are going to pursue all legal remedies available to aid our clients.”
The University has not yet issued a response and did not respond to a request for comment by the time of writing.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.