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Freedom Wins: Ball State to Pay 'Students for Life' in Religious Discrimination Case

09-06-2018

In what's being hailed as a religious freedom victory for college students, Ball State University has agreed to pay a pro-life student group more than $12,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging viewpoint discrimination.

Students for Life, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the school in June after it denied the group $300 in student activity fees because of its pro-life stance. The funds were meant to cover the costs of materials for the group's Pregnant on Campus initiative, aimed at assisting pregnant and parenting students.

The ADF complaint noted that the university "distributes the mandatory student fees to many organizations that  advocate for political, religious, and ideological views."

Case in point: The university gave the green light on funding for pro-abortion, pro-LGBTQ and atheist events with mandatory student fees.

"Public universities are supposed to provide a marketplace of ideas, but that market can't function properly if university officials promote some views over others," ADF attorney Caleb Dalton said in a news release.

"Ball State has taken some important first steps in eliminating the most blatantly unconstitutional aspects of their policies and honoring its intent to 'respect and learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions,'" Dalton added, referring to the settlement agreement.

Those steps include paying Students for Life $300, plus the group's attorney fees totaling $12,000.

BSU has also agreed to revise its student activity fees guidelines, which currently prohibit funding for "any organization which engages in activities, advocacy, or speech in order to advance a particular political interest, religion, religious faith, or ideology."

The school is instead looking to replace that policy with one that is viewpoint neutral.

Speaking of the settlement, BSU spokesperson Kathy Wolf said, "The university worked collaboratively with the students to promptly and amicably resolve the matter."

"Student organizations are a vibrant part of campus life," she noted. "The university looks forward to working with all student organizations as the updated policy is put into place." 

Meanwhile, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, was pleased with the outcome.

"We're encouraged that Ball State is reversing its discrimination against pro-life students," she said. "Tolerance is a two-way street, and BSU Students for Life deserves equal access to funding and the continued opportunity to share their message of hope with pregnant and parenting students."

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