The Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to the president of Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University yesterday asking why school employees had scrubbed away some students’ pro-life chalkings.
The Students for Life chapter had written the messages in celebration of National Pro-Life Chalk Day, but officials cleaned them up and claimed they were “just following orders.”
After SFL members redid the chalkings, they were wiped away again.
According to an ADF news release, (ADF) Legal Counsel Travis Barham says the school’s chalking policy is unconstitutional:
“[The policy] only permits messages the university agrees with. Nothing could more clearly violate the First Amendment than a policy that silences students based on whether university officials like or don’t like what the students are saying.”
Kutztown is a public institution.
The university’s “Posting and Chalking Guidelines” permit chalking “on sidewalks and other uncovered walkways” but then expressly regulate the “content” of student expression by prohibiting, among other things, messages that “advertise activities, events, or groups…incompatible with the University’s Statement on Non-Discrimination.”
“Those guidelines could censor a huge number of messages that university officials don’t find palatable, and, apparently, that’s exactly what happened here,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “While Kutztown University officials should be modeling the First Amendment for college students who will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, teachers, and voters, they are instead communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”
“From mandating that the ‘content of the chalking must be consistent’ with its content restrictions to placing those restrictions in a bulleted list under a boldfaced ‘Content’ heading, KUP could not possibly make it more clear that it engages in the very content discrimination that has been prohibited on campus since at least 1981…,” the ADF letter explains.
The letter states President Kenneth Hawkinson and the university can avoid a lawsuit if they condemn the erasure of the SFL chalkings, revise school guidelines “to remove all content- and viewpoint-based restrictions and to protect anonymous speech,” and mandate that all those associated with the chalk removal to attend a seminar on the First Amendment.