A top US university has agreed to change its policies after it was challenged for barring Martin Luther King’s niece from a pro-life event.
Alveda King was invited to speak on civil rights and abortion at Georgia Institute of Technology last year. The college’s Student Association refused to fund the event in case her views offended other students.
Following legal action, the university will now pay $50,000 in damages and legal fees and has promised to treat all student societies fairly.
Brian Cochran, a member of Students for Life (SFL) – America’s largest pro-life student organisation – had applied for funding for the event last year.
All students, including SFL members, contribute to event funding which is supposed to be available for all university societies.
However, the Student Government Association denied the application after ‘interrogating’ Cochran on the event and the viewpoints of King.
It claimed that some students might be offended by her presence on campus because she had been involved in religious ministries, and that her life was “inherently religious”.
US religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented the pro-life society in a federal lawsuit against Georgia Tech. But the case has now been dropped following a legal settlement.
The University agreed to alter its policies to treat all student groups fairly, regardless of their viewpoints. It also agreed to pay $50,000 in damages and legal fees.
The national president of SFL, which has over 1,250 groups across the US, commented: “Courageous student leaders across the nation face real opposition from their schools because they choose to stand up for the defenseless and peacefully educate their fellow students about protecting the preborn”.
She added: “public universities can’t discriminate against students for their political or religious beliefs, and we are hopeful that Georgia Tech’s decisive policy changes will set an example for universities around the country”.
ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton said: “Georgia Tech’s previous policy allowed discrimination against Ms. King because she was accused of leading an ‘inherently religious’ life.
“Under such a standard, MLK himself would not be welcome on campus.”
By changing its policy, he said the university is now “better living up to its duty to offer a marketplace of ideas, where diverse viewpoints should be encouraged, not shut down”, he said.