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Student group files lawsuit against Kennesaw State

Suit contends ‘viewpoint discrimination’ makes it difficult to invite conservative speakers to campus

A group of Kennesaw State University students is suing the university, saying it intentionally made it difficult for the students to bring a guest speaker to campus because of the group and speaker’s conservative beliefs.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by Young Americans for Freedom, accuses the university of engaging in “viewpoint discrimination” by charging the group an additional $320 for security costs for the guest speaker, Katie Pavlich, and by denying the group student activity fee funding to help defray the costs.

VIDEO: Previous campus free speech coverage

The lawsuit says the college told a student not to hand out Christian pamphlets on campus.

“Based upon the speaker you plan on hosting for your event and your projected amount of attendees, there is a little more controversy surrounding this person than that of other lesser know [sic] individuals. In light of this Public Safety has deemed it necessary, for the sake of precaution, to have both officers there,” Janice Malone, KSU’s Reservation Specialist, told the group, according to the lawsuit complaint.

Pavlich, news editor of TownHall, a conservative-leaning news site, was scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon at KSU.

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit for Young Americans for Freedom. The alliance sued KSU last month on behalf of a Christian student group, saying its rules for where students can speak and post displays on campus are restrictive and unconstitutional.

“A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function properly if officials can charge a group ‘security fees’ just because they don’t like what the group is saying, or if officials can provide funding and the best locations only to those sharing ideas that they prefer,” Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Travis Barham said in a statement Wednesday. “Kennesaw State’s byzantine speech policies allow officials to place student organizations into an arbitrary caste system of superiors and inferiors, and to assess security fees that numerous courts in other cases have routinely declared unconstitutional.”

KSU declined comment because it is pending litigation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon.

The Georgia Legislature is considering a senate bill that would require the state’s public colleges and universities ensure students and groups permitted to speak on campus are protected from heckling.

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The AJC's Eric Stirgus keeps you updated on the latest happenings in higher education affecting metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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