Anti-abortion group sues college over ‘free speech zones’

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Attorneys from the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom filed the suit on the students' behalf in the U.S. District Court in Eugene on Tues., May 5, 2020.

It is unconstitutional to deny an American the right to free speech, but what about delaying that right?

A student group that opposes abortion is suing Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., over two “free speech” zones on campus and a required two-week notice before holding a demonstration, according to a report by the Oregonian.

Marcos Sanchez and Emma Howell, co-presidents of Chemeketa Students for Life, say the zones and waiting period are unconstitutional and violate their First Amendment rights.

The pair are named as plaintiffs in the suit and allege the policies keep them and other students from expressing their views on campus in a free and timely manner.

“Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Howell believe that peacefully engaging with other students on the College’s campus verbally, with signs, pictures, pamphlets, or other means is an essential way for them to fulfill their moral obligation to work to end abortion,’’ the suit charges.

The two-week delay requirement keeps students from responding to “unpredictable and fast-moving” political debate, the suit contends.

Attorneys for the students are from Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit Christian organization. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene on Tuesday.

“The only permission slip students need in order to speak on public college campuses is the First Amendment,” said Michael Ross, a lawyer for the alliance. “Students don’t give up their constitutionally protected freedoms when they step on to campus or hold a specific viewpoint.”

A spokeswoman for Chemeketa Community College said the college does not comment on pending litigation.

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