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CSU student files lawsuit after funding denied for anti-abortion speaker

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Posted at 3:59 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 18:09:08-05

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- A Colorado State University student is suing the school over its refusal to help pay for an event featuring a speaker who promotes ending legal access to abortion.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Emily Faulkner and the group Students for Life at Colorado State University allege the university violated the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1871 when it denied the group’s request for student fee-funded grant money to host Josh Brahm.

Brahm is the president of the Equal Rights Institute, a pro-life organization that provides training for people who are opposed to legal abortion.

University officials denied the request for funding because they said Brahm was not “entirely unbiased” and some attendees “won’t necessarily feel affirmed in attending the event," according to the lawsuit

The complaint names CSU President Anthony Frank, a number of other high-ranking officials, the CSU Board of Governors and the university’s Diversity Grant Committee as defendants.

The Diversity Grant Committee, which comprises CSU students and faculty/staff, oversees and distributes Diversity Grant funding to student groups on campus. The grant uses funds from mandatory fees that students pay with tuition each term.

Each full-time on-campus student at CSU paid $831.89 in student fees per semester for a total of $55 million in the 2016-2017 academic year, the lawsuit states. 

The suit takes issue with the committee and other university officials having free rein to allocate those funds as they see fit and alleges that student fees – which Faulkner has paid -- have been used to fund events that provide a platform for viewpoints with which she disagrees.

Distributing fees for events that promote one viewpoint and denying funds for opposing viewpoints not only contradicts the notion of the “marketplace of ideas” in higher education but constitutes discrimination and violates the First Amendment's right to free speech, the complaint argues.

A spokesman for CSU said on Wednesday that the university had just learned about the lawsuit and was reviewing the claims and issues it raises. The spokesman said the university typically does not comment on pending legal cases.

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