Pro-Life Poster Raises Free Speech Concerns in Indiana School

In response to administrators’ order to remove a pro-life poster at a Carmel Clay School in Indiana, the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter to the superintendent and principal stating that the decision not only violates the First Amendment, but also compromises the overall educational environment at the school.

The hand-painted poster designed by the pro-life group Teens for Life was made to promote adoption over abortion. With the statement “3,000 Live Are Ended Each Day,” a student at the school where the poster was hung found it offensive, and administrators immediately ordered its removal. Although the group was given permission to hang a poster, the poster that was ultimately created was not technically “approved.”

In response to the situation, Liberty Counsel urged the school to reverse their decision, citing violation of the First Amendment and threatening legal action. “To avoid legal action, please immediately reverse this decision and confirm that the school district will respect the private speech of public school students,” said Richard L. Mast Jr. (It should be noted that Liberty Counsel is a religion-affiliated non-profit that previously threatened legal action against the school system in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, over a reading of I Am Jazz.)

Indiana University professor John L. Hill echoed these sentiments, making the statement that “if they permit groups to put up posters generally, but single out this one group individually, they can’t do that. [Public schools] cannot pick and choose which viewpoints get heard.”

NCAC, on behalf of the Youth Free Expression Program, further argues that “the pro-life poster represents non-disruptive political speech that is protected under the First Amendment,” adding:

Restricting political speech in response to subjective claims of “offense” would severely harm the educational process, as students would lose the opportunity to discuss divisive yet important issues such as race, religion, and immigration.

As NCAC points out, to in effect censor the voice of a particular group — specifically a student organization — undermines the integrity and core goals of public education, “to encourage civic engagement and develop students’ critical thinking skills.”

Although school administrators have stated that they are taking these concerns into consideration, a decision has yet to be publicly made about the ultimate fate of the poster.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment in 2017 work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!