What is a politically correct, tax-funded state university to do about people who say the "wrong things" on campus? Deny free speech to those who dare to challenge liberal orthodoxy’s pet issues? Deny the relevance of free speech guarantees in the First Amendment and state constitutions? Some, like the University of Houston, are doing precisely that.
You might recall that back in the 1960s liberals on university campuses were screaming about the need for unlimited free speech. Some of those protestors eventually became tenured professors and administrators at these universities, forcing their political and legal ideologies on campus administrations.
Now, these one-time free speech advocates are throttling the speech of those who disagree with them. Students who have a traditional faith in God are threatened, punished, and even arrested for unapproved speech and "subversive acts" such as passing out religious leaflets or protesting abortion. So much for free speech on campus.
But some students are braving the persecution. They compose a small, but growing resistance movement. At the University of Houston, the Pro-Life Cougars (named after the school mascot) are fighting and winning. The troublesome speech in question is a display sponsored by the Pro-Life Cougars. Similar displays have been used on almost 40 other campuses. Nevertheless, University of Houston administrators tried to prohibit the display.
Here’s what happened. A year ago, the Pro-Life Cougars sought permission to put up their display in a public space previously used by groups like the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood. The university prohibited the exhibit, and, to obtain equal access, the group had to file a lawsuit in January.
Later, the Pro-Life Cougars sought permission to hold two events on campus -- a Concert for Life on March 20 and 21, and an event featuring Norma McCorvey on April 4, 2002. McCorvey, now a pro-life advocate, is the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade notoriety. The university told the student group it would have to pay $25 an hour for security guards needed to police the events, because, as one official told a student, "some events are more violent than others." Other groups are not charged for the security guards at their events, but the university wanted the Pro-Life Cougars to pay. Being pro-life was the only distinguishing feature of the Pro-Life Cougar events. If you want to exercise free speech, it must be correct speech.
The Pro-Life Cougars had a choice: Surrender to this repeated and unconstitutional discrimination, or take legal action. They chose to fight and contacted the Alliance Defense Fund. The group decided they’d rather not be at the mercy of the anti-free speech, politically correct university administration. As we say at the Alliance Defense Fund, "Speech is speech, fair’s fair, and Christian student groups have the same right to free speech as other student groups."
The Pro-Life Cougars won a preliminary injunction against the university which allows the group to go forward with a pro-life display on Butler Plaza. The university asked the district court for a stay of the injunction, and the motion was denied. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected the university’s additional emergency attempt to overturn the injunction.
Why would the University of Houston want to eliminate pro-life speech from campus? Could it be the pro-life message is true? We know similar displays have been effective on other campuses. The displays have helped student face key questions for the first time. When do we become human? What is abortion? How are you going to live in light of this new information?
And some students see the light. For instance, at one southeastern university, a young mother who planned to abort her daughter saw the exhibit. Her daughter survived, and is now three years old, living with an adoptive family.
Mind you, the Pro-Life Cougars and the Alliance Defense Fund might not be winning in the mainstream news media. That’s almost impossible. Local news reports from Houston called the Alliance Defense Fund a "conservative Christian organization representing Pro-Life Cougars." Would the news ever refer to the ACLU as a "liberal atheist organization representing pro-abortion groups?"
On the other hand, to the reporter’s credit, the story placed a comment from the lead attorney in the case near the top of his story: "It’s about time the university stopped treating pro-life speech as if it were pornography." Amen. And let the Alliance Defense Fund know if a pro-life group on a state university campus near you needs representation.
For more information regarding the Alliance Defense Fund,