TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama has apologized for removing a pro-life display earlier this month after some students complained that they found it to be “offensive.”
Bama Students for Life had erected the small display behind a glass case that it has reserved last month, and noted earlier this month that the poster was now missing. The display included facts about abortion, photographs of women who had died from abortions, and two photographs of aborted babies. The slogan, “Abortion: Not safe, not rare, just legal,” was also written in the middle of the poster.
According to Bama Students for Life, university officials removed the display without notice after they received complaints from other students. Organization President Claire Chretien then recorded her discussion with campus officials in inquiring why the display had disappeared.
“It’s like I told you from the beginning,” one unidentified woman states. “If we receive complaints about it, we have to take it down.”
When asked what students had complained about, the woman replied that it was the photos of the dead babies and a woman that had died. She said that university policy prohibits offensive or graphic content.
“Just like if somebody put up something that upset you that you felt deeply about,” the official stated. “We have to keep it happy for everybody.”
Bama Students for Life then contacted the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and sent a letter to the university to express their concerns.
“We believe that the removal of our pro-life display violates our First Amendment right to free speech,” the letter read. “The United States Supreme Court has said that educators cannot ban offensive speech.”
The group outlined that other groups have been allowed to post offensive material without issue.
“The Ferguson Center permits all kinds of speech by other students and student groups that many people would find ‘offensive’ or ‘graphic,'” it noted. “[O]n one bulletin board is an ad for the UA Theatre & Dance program’s presentation of ‘Blood Wedding.’ The poster states that the event is ‘for mature audiences’ and features blood stained glass superimposed on a picture of a bride and groom. A few months ago the Ferguson Center Art Gallery displayed student artwork, and one painting showed male full frontal nudity.”
“Other student groups are also permitted to display information about women’s health, safety issues, and the consequences of sex,” the letter continued. “All of these problems were addressed in our pro-life display that provided facts and information on the harm caused by abortion–both to the infant who is killed and to the mother.”
ADF also noted that the university policy mentions nothing about offensive or graphic material as the official had asserted.
On Monday, Ferguson Center Student Union Director Carl Bacon sent an email to Chretien apologizing for the removal and offering dates for the display to be returned to the glass case.
“Please accept my apology that your display was removed without your knowledge two days before your reserved time expired,” he wrote.
The pro-life display will now return to its place on Thursday.
“Censorship is inconsistent with ‘the marketplace of ideas’ that a public university is supposed to be,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We commend the university for its quick response to Bama Students for Life’s free speech concerns.”