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Southwest Missouri State University agrees to remove restrictions on campus free speech

ADF official comment
Published On: 10/18/2017

SPRINGFIELD, MO – Another university acknowledged an unacceptably restrictive speech policy and has settled with a conservative student group that sued after suffering discrimination because of the restrictive policy and the way it was applied by the university’s student government.

The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Southwest Missouri State University brought the lawsuit because:

  • YAF could not recruit new members on campus by student government decree
  • YAF could only meet on campus once a semester
  • YAF could only speak out in the area designated for expressive activity – an area measuring 2000 square feet – and
  • The Student Government  refused to recognize the chapter as a student group which meant YAF could not gain access to student fees  as other groups can.

Leaders of the SWMU student government knew the conservative views of the Young Americans for Freedom because the group publishes a newspaper.

All of these issues were settled in favor of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter. 

"The university’s censorship policies were unconstitutional, and we commend its leaders for clearing up matters quickly," said Kevin Theriot, an attorney in the Alliance Defense Fund’s Kansas City Regional Service Center.  "The law is clear.  The university realized it cannot have or enforce a policy that prohibits all debates, forums, rallies, demonstrations, peaceful protests, and other similar public forum activities, except in a free speech area."

The suit, Ryan Cooper v. Dr. John H. Keiser, president of Southwest Missouri State University, was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.  Ryan Cooper is president of the YAF chapter at SWM University. 

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.