Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A campus display of Genocide Awareness Project’s pro-life signs
Members of a university pro-life club have received a letter from school officials threatening them with fines, arrests and even expulsion if they set up their semiannual display depicting the horrors of abortion.
Each semester since 2006, members of the University of Calgary’s Campus Pro-Life student club, called CPL, have displayed a set of 4-by-8-foot signs from the Genocide Awareness Project that protest abortion.
This semester, however, lawyers for the university sent a menacing letter to CPL informing the students that their signs would only be permitted if turned away from passing foot traffic. Violation of this policy, the letter stated, would make pro-life protesters on campus “subject to arrest, fines or a civil lawsuit.”
CPL students involved in an outward display of the signs, the letter threatened, would also be subject to discipline, including suspension or expulsion.
“Being told to turn our signs inwards is like being told we can express our views as long as nobody can hear us,” CPL declares on its website. “[It's] like telling black people they can ride the bus – but demanding they sit at the back. It’s unconscionable!”
The letter from university lawyers explains that the school is within its rights to control what happens on its private property, especially activities that “are likely to trigger violent confrontations.”
As WND reported, a group of angry students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point earlier this year stormed a pro-life protest, uprooting white crosses that were part of the display.
CPL, however, contends that in their five previous displays, the presence of campus security prevented any incidents. The group’s president also told LifeSiteNews that CPL requires participating students to commit to a non-violent code of conduct.
In a response-letter to university attorneys, CPL further argued that demanding the group turn their signs away from foot traffic because viewers might have a violent reaction gives the violent few censorship control over peaceable people’s freedom of speech.
“When the peaceful expression of an opinion is threatened by violence, the appropriate solution is the provision of security, not censorship of the opinion,” writes CPL. “In this context censorship would constitute an affirmation of violence as an effective means to silence unpopular opinions. If the University censors an opinion rather than providing adequate security, the University sends a powerful signal that unpopular or controversial views can be silenced through the threat of violence.”
Leah Hallman, CPL’s president, told LifeSiteNews, “Banning an event because of the possibility of someone else being violent towards it is like telling women they are not allowed to walk on campus at night because of the possibility they may be sexually assaulted.”
Hallman continued, “The right solution to that potential crime is to provide lighting and security to deter the person who might commit such a crime, not to ban the women.”
“We do not want to be arrested, but the university’s attempt to bully us is wrong,” the vice president of CPL, Cameron Wilson, told LifeSiteNews.
Despite the threats, CPL students plan to defy the university’s reversal of policy and display the pro-life signs Wednesday and Thursday.