School Officials Fail by Muzzling Pro-Life Club’s Free Speech

Dec 13, 2016

CARMEL, IN – School administrators at Carmel High School censored and removed a previously approved adoption poster display, created by a pro-life student club, on the basis of another student’s complaint that it was “offensive.” Student members of Carmel Teens for Life, represented by Liberty Counsel, spent over 25 man hours painting a poster display which included 300 individual tiny hearts, each representing 10 lives, to symbolize the written statement “3,000 Lives Are Ended Each Day.”

Rather than the administration calling the pro-life club’s leadership to retrieve the now-allegedly “unapproved” multi-piece poster, the poster was thrown away. School officials later claimed the multi-part poster impermissibly expressed an “ideology” and was “not approved for display.” The poster was, in fact, approved for display, as evidenced by approval stamps on each of its component pages, and it complied with club signage guidelines. The principal and assistant principal said that club signs are not permitted to “interfere with what folks are thinking or feeling comfortable with.”  However, signs from other organizations promoting ideologies such as pro-LGBT and pro-Young Democrats are allowed.

School administrators also demanded the Carmel Teens for Life student members sign an  which prohibits club members from using the word “abortion” in any official club communications, verbal or written, including Facebook, school posters and other official correspondence. The agreement also stated they could not contact outside legal assistance. The students were not allowed to take the agreement home or to discuss it with their parents. The club members were threatened that if they did not sign the agreement immediately the club sponsors would be forced to resign, effectively disbanding the club and excluding it from official recognition.

“By allowing other student clubs to post their viewpoints throughout the school while banning a poster from Carmel Teens for Life, the school has engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Schools also may not censor pro-life viewpoints. The actions of the school officials are outrageous. Not only did they censor protected speech, they threatened students with retaliation if they sought legal counsel. We will hold this school and these officials accountable,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.