YAF Threatens UMN With Lawsuit Over Treatment of Ben Shapiro Lecture

Young America's Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom are demanding the University of Minnesota respects the First Amendment rights of conservative students and allows the Shapiro lecture to be held in Willey Hall as originally requested without levying a security fee.

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University of Minnesota Entrance
University of Minnesota Entrance

MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Minnesota (UMN) could be facing legal action over its handling of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) lecture featuring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro.

YAF and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) warned UMN Tuesday of a pending lawsuit if the university does not “remedy its disparate treatment of conservative students.” A letter written by YAF and ADF and sent to the University of Minnesota’s General Counsel called out the university for “viewpoint discrimination.”

“The University of Minnesota employed a heckler’s veto by denying conservative students equal access to university facilities on the basis of the students’ viewpoint,” the letter reads. “By empowering protestors to relocate or severely restrict students’ peaceable and orderly expression, the University is trampling the rights of individual students to appease the demands of the intolerant majority.”

As Alpha News has reported, UMN has come under fire for isolating the Shapiro lecture on the St. Paul campus, despite offering different accommodations on the Minneapolis campus for past liberal speakers. The student organization coordinating the YAF event, Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV), were repeatedly denied venues on the main campus for a variety of inexplicable reasons.

One room, the centrally-located Willey Hall, was denied based on security concerns due to proximity to the skyway system and public transportation. Instead, UMN offered a much smaller venue isolated away from the main campus on the St. Paul campus. On top of the inconvenient location, the room would require an extra $5,000 security fee. The letter called out the fee as an “unconstitutional action” saying UMN “may no vary security fees based on listeners’ reaction to speech.”

“It is fundamentally unfair to deny SCV equal access to a university facility because those critical of SCV may protest the content of their speech,” the letter reads. “Others’ reaction to the content of SCV’s speech does not give the University the authority to restrict or place limitations on SCV’s speech, at least not constitutionally.”

The letter demands the university respects the First Amendment rights of conservative students and allows the Shapiro lecture to be held in Willey Hall as originally requested without levying a security fee. If UMN fails to cooperate, a lawsuit could be in the works.

“It is not too late for the University of Minnesota to correct its error and to respect the First Amendment rights of all of its students, not just those professing favored viewpoints,” the letter concludes.

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