U. Buffalo sued over guard fee for abortion debate

7/1/2013 11:00 AM
By Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A religious-freedom legal group has filed a lawsuit against the University at Buffalo for charging an anti-abortion student group $650 for security guards at an abortion debate, when other student groups weren't charged such fees for similar events.

Lawyer David Hacker of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom said Monday that the university deemed the abortion event controversial, and thus subject to the fee. He said the university leaves it to the whim of officials to determine what's controversial.

The legal group argues that the security fee policy violates the First Amendment because it gives college officials discretion to discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint.

A university spokesman said the school doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.

UB Students for Life is an officially recognized student organization at the university. When it reserved space for a debate on abortion in April, the university required it to pay a fee for campus security because officials anticipated it would be controversial. Alliance Defending Freedom said another group that hosted a debate between a Christian and an atheist in the same building at the same time wasn't charged a security fee.

The security fee of $650 was $150 more than the entire amount of funding the anti-abortion student group receives from the Student Association each year.

The lawsuit says university officials "create a system in which speech is reviewed without any standards, thus giving students no way to prove that a denial, restriction, or relocation of their speech was based on unconstitutional considerations."

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