College free speech lawsuit settled
    October 28 2008 by Religion News Service

    Shippensburg University and a religious student group have settled a lawsuit over alleged violations of free speech rights at the state-owned university.

    The Christian Fellowship of Shippensburg University asserted in a federal lawsuit filed last May that it had been threatened with being shut down because it requires members to be Christians and its president to be a man.

    The group said the school violated a 2004 settlement of a separate lawsuit over the school's student code of conduct.

    In the 2004 case, a civil liberties group sued the university over a student code that barred "acts of intolerance" including racist, sexist and homophobic speech. University officials said they would revise the code after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction barring its enforcement.

    The Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom said the latest lawsuit stemmed from Christian Fellowship's expulsion from campus by the student senate in February in a dispute over its membership and leadership requirements.

    The group, which has been recognized by the university since the early 1970s, was later told it could resume operations but said it feared the possibility of further sanctions.

    The fellowship alleged university officials had undermined free speech by enacting "vague and overbroad speech codes" and by requiring students to report violations.

    The Alliance Defense Fund said the university "has agreed to correct the policies and respect the constitutional rights of its students."

    The section of the Student Association Handbook for recognized clubs and organizations now includes the provision: "A student organization formed to foster or affirm political or sincerely held religious beliefs of its members may select its members and leaders in accordance with those beliefs."

    Shippensburg confirmed that the suit had been settled and said in a statement that it had not disciplined students for violating rules about speech, "nor has the university taken action against a student organization based on its membership criteria."

    10/28/2008 5:33:00 AM by Religion News Service | with 0 comments
    Filed under: free speech, religious freedom, Shippensburg University

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