University nixes 'trigger warning' for pro-life speech to settle lawsuit with student group

(Wikimedia Commons/Mccartm8)Front View of Anderson Hall, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

A university in Ohio has agreed to remove the requirement for "trigger warnings" for pro-life speech on campus as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Students for Life America (SFLA).

Miami University of Ohio had agreed to a settlement following a legal battle that stemmed from the school's decision to require its Students for Life chapter to post "trigger warnings" for pro-life displays. A school official argued that such warnings were required because displays opposing abortion might cause "emotional trauma" to people who might view them.

The displays in question were 300 crosses planted in the ground, with each representing 1,000 babies aborted by Planned Parenthood. In 2016, doctors working with the organization had reportedly aborted 328,348 babies.

Students for File filed a lawsuit against the school with the help of nonprofit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in November. The lawsuit raised objections to the university's policies that give officials broad powers over an exhibit's presentation and content.

At the time of the suit, the school officials indicated that the peaceful display of crosses would only be allowed if warning signs were placed around campus. However, no other student organization was told to comply with a similar requirement.

As part of the settlement, the university disavowed its warning sign requirement and revised a second policy to guarantee that other groups will not face similar mistreatment.

A third policy was also revised to prevent officials from stifling free speech simply because it could "cause alarm, annoyance or nuisance," The Daily Caller reported.

Following the news of the rollback of the requirements, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins commended the ADF and the students for working to secure free speech rights on the campus.

"This is a victory for the free speech rights of students, who should not be told that their support of mothers and their preborn children is some kind of shameful act that should be apologized for or vilified as harmful," Hawkins said in a statement to The Christian Post.

"We appreciate the work of Alliance Defending Freedom, and especially love the commitment of our student leaders who courageously advocate for life, no matter the obstacles," she added.

ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham commended the university for "quickly recognizing that its officials do not have the authority to censor student speech simply because of how someone might respond to it,"

"By revising its policies to respect students' constitutionally protected rights, the university has fostered the marketplace of ideas that public universities are supposed to be," Barham said, contending that the only permission slip needed by students to speak on campus was the First Amendment.

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