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Anti-abortion student group files federal suit against Miami University

Posted: 6:59 PM, Nov 30, 2017
Updated: 2017-11-30 18:59:39-05
Anti-abortion student group files federal suit against Miami University

HAMILTON, Ohio -- An anti-abortion student group at Miami University filed a federal civil rights suit against the school Wednesday, claiming Miami had abridged the group's right to free speech by asking for changes to an anti-abortion display.

But Miami officials told the Journal-News Thursday the disagreement is based on an "unfortunate misunderstanding" and vowed that any errors made would be corrected.

The display at the heart of the disagreement is a "cemetery of innocents," which mimics a graveyard with every cross or headstone representing a certain number of abortions performed. Miami University's chapter of Students for Life erects this display annually, according to the federal suit filed on the organization's behalf by the conservative Christian Alliance Defending Freedom. 

However, in 2017, the suit claims, "Defendants refused to approve the display unless Plaintiffs agreed to post warning signs around campus that effectively urged people not to view it, forcing Plaintiffs to present a 'trigger warning' for their own display. …

"Defendants took these actions because of the content and viewpoint of Plaintiffs' expression because they believed that Plaintiffs' expression would prompt complaints and because they wanted to pacify those who might be offended by this display."

Students for Life claimed the university's request had caused the group irreparable harm by prompting them to cancel the exhibit and sued for damages as well as a change in university speech codes that would limit the school's discretion in rejecting or changing proposed student displays.

Miami Spokeswoman Claire Wagner said, "this lawsuit appears to be the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding at Miami University's Hamilton campus. Miami University does not require trigger warnings."

"All Miami University students and student organizations have First Amendment rights to free speech. As a result, the university does not approve or disapprove of any student organization's display based on content or subject matter," said Wagner.