Washington University: Mandatory University Viewpoint

Category: Free Speech, Freedom of Conscience
Schools: Washington University in St. Louis

The Student Bar Association (SBA) at Washington University School of Law voted 27-6, with 4 abstentions, to recognize Law Students Pro-Life. This vote overturned two earlier decisions that denied recognition to Law Students Pro-Life, the critical first vote having been 27-10-1 against the group. In a September 9, 2002 letter of rejection to Law Students Pro-Life, the SBA termed "the catching issue" what they labeled "the narrowness of the group’s interests and goals." The SBA "felt that the organization was not touching on all possible Pro-Life issues" because it did not have an "anti-death penalty" position in its constitution. FIRE wrote the chancellor of Washington University and the dean of the law school objecting because the SBA had engaged in a double standard and had violated Washington University’s commitment to free speech and free religion. After receiving no response, FIRE took the case public, formed an alliance with the Eastern Missouri ACLU and organized a petition signed by professors, law students, undergraduates, and private citizens from around the country. "FIRE’s advocacy made all the difference," said Jordan Siverd, chairman of Law Students Pro-Life.