By Diana Chandler
KENNESSAW – A Christian apologetics group will be able to display pro-life and other messages freely at a state university, the result of a settlement reached through Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Ratio Christi, a registered student organization at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, gained the right in a settlement ADF announced Oct. 18. The group had twice been required to post its displays in a small “speech zone” after the university deemed the messages “controversial,” ADF said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in February.
“Kennesaw State has done the right thing in ending the ability of officials to quarantine any student speech they deemed ‘controversial’ to a tiny, difficult-to-access part of campus,” ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said in announcing the settlement. “We hope that this settlement will prompt other public universities to eliminate similar unconstitutional policies.
“The First Amendment prohibits universities from restricting where students can speak, whether that restriction is based on what students intend to say or simply based on sparing the feelings of others who may disagree,” Barham said. The zone amounted to less than .08 percent of the school’s 450-acre campus, ADF said.
Kennesaw, a more than 35,000-enrollment school in the University System of Georgia, agreed to eliminate its speech zone and allow students to speak freely in all outdoor areas of campus, ADF said. The university will also cover about $20,000 in legal fees in the settlement, still pending.
The agreement ended a lawsuit ADF filed in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Plaintiffs included Ratio Christi and a student who attempted to reserve space for pro-life displays in heavily trafficked areas of campus in 2016 and 2017.
“In today’s academic environment, Christian students and educators must not only defend our faith,” Ratio Christi president and CEO Corey Miller said in February of the lawsuit, “but we must also defend our right to defend our faith.”
Ratio Christi states as its purpose “to encourage and strengthen the faith of Christian students … while sharing Christ’s message and love with those who have not yet accepted Him.”
The university had not responded to request Baptist Press for comment by publication deadline.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.