Boise State University

BSU, anti-abortion group settle free speech lawsuit

A settlement in the lawsuit against Boise State University by a student group largely comes down to signs.

Either the university will always provide signs to alert students when groups set up displays to promote a cause, or it never will.

Signs were an integral part of what prompted the suit last June. Abolitionists4Life claimed that Boise State clipped its First Amendment rights when it asked the group to place warning signs around two exhibits that showed images from abortions and an autopsy photo of a woman who died having an abortion. Other groups weren’t asked to provide any signs, Abolitionists4Life said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on Abolitionists4Life’s behalf. The Alliance Defending Freedom was founded by leaders of the religious right, including Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family; Don Wildmon, of the American Family Association; the Rev. D. James Kennedy, of Coral Ridge Ministries; and Bill Bright, of Campus Crusade for Christ.

The lawsuit said the university’s free speech rules were enforced unevenly, and it sought an order blocking the requirement of warning signs.

As part of the settlement, Boise State may either require signs that read, “Public display ahead; viewer discretion advised,” in all open spaces reserved for events, or simply require no signs at all.

Boise State also will pay $20,000 to Abolitionists4Life — $100 for damages and the rest for legal fees.

The change puts people exercising their rights of free speech on an equal footing without regard to their message, said Lisa Atkins, who was president of the campus Abolitionists4Life group and was at the event last year that led to the lawsuit.

I am pretty happy with the policy they have ended up with,” said Atkins, who is now a Northwest representative for Students For Life.