Students for Life group files free speech lawsuit against CSU

Seth Bodine

CSU Students for Life, a pro-life club at Colorado State University, filed a federal lawsuit against CSU on Tuesday for denying funding to a pro-life speaker event.

The event, titled “Bodily Rights: The Ultimate Abortion Argument,” would have featured Josh Brahm, president of the Equal Rights Institute, a national organization dedicated to training pro-life advocates for dialogue and outreach.


In a press release to the Collegian, the group claimed CSU denied funding to the event due to the speaker’s pro-life views.The lawsuit claims this is a violation of the First Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech in the U.S.

Emily Faulkner, president of CSU Students for Life and a senior biology major, said filing the lawsuit was about protecting the freedom of speech and had nothing to do with abortion.

“Free speech on a public university should be a no-brainer,” Faulkner said.

The student group applied for a diversity grant in September 2015 to host Brahm. In November 2016, the group brought Dr. Alveda King to speak at the Lory Student Center.

The proposal was denied because the event did not seem unbiased, and the committee worried attendees from various sides of the issues “won’t necessarily feel affirmed while attending the event.”

“In another example of bias against the pro-life position, CSU felt they had the right to deny the Students for Life group funding just because the speaker was presenting arguments from a position they didn’t agree with,” wrote Kristan Hawkins, president of the national organization Students for Life of America. “CSU played favorites while stifling free speech, a typical response of abortion advocates who prefer to silence opposition rather than have a free exchange of ideas.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of CSU Students for Life by attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization.

Although the University charged Students for Life members the same mandatory activity fees that all students pay to fund the grants, the lawsuit claims Students for Life members were not allowed to benefit from the grant as other students can.

“Colorado State University funded the advocacy of its preferred student organizations but has excluded Students for Life from consideration based purely upon the viewpoint expressed in its funding request to bring a speaker to campus,” wrote ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “Because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, courts have repeatedly rejected this discriminatory treatment as unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit, Students for Life at Colorado State University v. Mosher, states public universities cannot discriminate against student speech in a public forum on the basis of a content or viewpoint. The complaint asks the court to halt the University from applying a double-standard by funding other groups’ speaker events on similar topics.


The lawsuit also argues CSU has funded other events like the one the students applied for in the past. Since Students for Life pay the same mandatory activity fees as other students in order to fund grants, the lawsuit states the students are “entitled to viewpoint neutral access to student fees allocated by the University.”

CSU is reviewing the issues and claims raised and will respond accordingly, according to Mike Hooker, CSU executive director of public affairs and communications. Right now, the University will not comment on the pending litigation.

Collegian News Editor Seth Bodine can be reached at or on Twitter @sbodine120.