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Wayne State University sued by anti-abortion student group

By The Associated Press
07.26.08

DETROIT — A student group is suing Wayne State University over the denial of money for a week of anti-abortion events, saying its free-speech rights were violated last spring.

Students for Life said that as a registered campus organization, it is like other groups entitled to a portion of student fees. The group said it sought $4,000 from Wayne State's Student Council for snacks, T-shirts, fliers and publicity, but the request was rejected. A smaller budget also was turned down.

A lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Detroit said the initial request was rejected because of "spiritual and religious" references. But the anti-abortion group said it had no specific religious affiliation.

"Access for these groups to funding and facilities must be provided without regard to the group's viewpoint. When a public university enforces a viewpoint-discriminatory policy, the school violates the Constitution," attorney Joseph Martins said in a statement July 24.

A message seeking comment was left with Wayne State's public relations staff.

The events included an opportunity for students to have their picture taken with a model of a fetus. The group wanted to hold a "pro-life trivia game" on a stage at Student Center North Commons, a busy area, but was told by campus officials to use another area, according to the lawsuit.

"Some people would no doubt likely find it difficult to eat lunch if they have strong opinions either for or against your group," Christina Basso of the Student Center staff said in an e-mail attached to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said events didn't draw as many people as anticipated because of location and a lack of money.

Students for Life and members Juliegha Norus and Mark Robertson are asking a judge to declare that Wayne State's policy on how student fees are spent is illegal. The lawsuit also seeks an unspecified monetary award for the group.


Related

5th Circuit sides with anti-abortion group in leafleting dispute (news)
By Chris Hamby Panel finds University of Texas policy prohibiting anonymous distribution of literature on campus violates the First Amendment. 06.03.05

Collegians win partial refund of mandatory activity fees (news)
Federal judge says student government's use of campus referendums wrongly lets popular opinion determine which activities to fund. 11.11.05

Professor, students charged with dismantling anti-abortion display (news)
Northern Kentucky University instructor also faces charge of criminal solicitation because she allegedly encouraged students to participate in destruction. 04.27.06

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