‘Draconian’ Slap Against Campus Conservatives Leads to Lawsuit
College Republicans at University of Washington find themselves with hefty $17K security fee ahead of free-speech rally
As far as U.S. cities go, Seattle is one of the most liberal places on Earth, as evidenced by its role as a sanctuary city and its support of illegal heroin-injection sites and sprawling homeless encampments on public spaces, among other insanity.
The Pacific Northwest city is also dead set against most things even remotely conservative — and academia is no exception, with its tendency to demonize those with Judeo-Christian beliefs and values.
Now, in what appears to be blatant bias against conservatives on campus, the University of Washington, a public institution subsidized largely with taxpayer dollars, is flexing its muscle against the UW College Republicans group by imposing a hefty $17,000 security fee for an upcoming free speech rally.
The event, set to feature Patriot Prayer, a conservative Christian group from Vancouver, Washington, is planned for Saturday, February 10, in Red Square, at the university’s main campus — but that remains to be seen.
On Tuesday of this week, William Becker, the attorney for the UW College Republicans, filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the security fee is unconstitutional and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Becker is also president and CEO of Freedom X, a nonprofit law firm that supports conservative causes.
He called the security fee “draconian and unreasonable.”
Forcing the College Republicans to pay a fee based on the potential reaction of people opposed to its viewpoints amounts to “an unconstitutional heckler’s veto,” Becker wrote. The university is charging fees, in essence, based on the content of the event, which is unconstitutional.
An excerpt from the Complaint for Civil Rights Violations and Related Claims reads:
The imposition of a $17,000 security fee for a Saturday afternoon event featuring an evangelical Christian speaker is remarkable. But UW Seattle justifies it only on the basis of an unconstitutional heckler's veto, in essence, rewarding members of society so intolerant of and hostile to hearing views they find objectionable they must threaten and/or commit violence to protect themselves from such views. By imposing such an exorbitantly large security fee on the Plaintiffs, Defendants, and each of them, are responsible for ratifying an unconstitutional heckler's veto, taxing protected speech and rewarding those who disrespect the solemn and precious freedoms safeguarded within the First Amendment.
Among those named in the lawsuit are UW President Ana Mari Cauce and the chief of police at the University of Washington, John N. Vinson.
Vinson, for his part, issued a statement on behalf of the campus police department:
The safety and security of our campus community is a primary concern for the University of Washington. UWPD determines the estimated costs for security at events hosted by all student groups and registered organizations on an individual basis. These estimates are solely based on objective criteria, including an analysis of violence and threats to public safety by the invited speaker, attendees at previous events or the sponsoring group — both in and out of the state of Washington — as well as the date, time and location of the proposed event. Security cost estimates are not based on a speaker or group's ideology or political position.
To be sure, conservatives are being punished in this case through no fault of their own — and "security" is fast becoming the latest tool for suppressing free speech on campus.
Similarly, the University of Connecticut in Storrs imposed new security measures ahead of a presentation by prominent conservative Ben Shapiro, Daily Wire's editor-in-chief, last month.
"Something has to be done about a system where a few crazed leftists decide they don't want to hear somebody speak — and therefore, people from the outside who pay taxes to universities like this one can't get in," Shapiro told the audience.
Interestingly enough, according to a letter that Becker sent Cauce a few days ago, a left-wing group called Solidarity Against Hate posted on Facebook that it plans to hold counterprotests — and in all likelihood aims to agitate Patriot Prayer members. It's highly doubtful the University of Washington will impose any fines on that group, even if it's deemed culpable for starting or inciting violence.
In the statement below, this Solidarity Against Hate group appears to have all the trappings of Antifa, which has managed to shut down free speech, from Berkeley and beyond — costing taxpayers much more than $17,000.
We, the undersigned organizations, have a shared understanding and commitment to confront racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all other forms of discrimination and oppression on our campus and in our community. We recognize that only by uniting together in solidarity can we accomplish our goals not only to stop fascism and bigotry in the present but also to put forth our progressive vision for a hopeful and egalitarian future.
It's no secret universities from coast to coast have become indoctrination centers for left-wing causes and an echo chamber for identity politics, where vilifying conservatives because of their Judeo-Christian values is expected and accepted.
And sadly, the University of Washington, like many other institutions of higher learning, has succumbed to a heckler's veto — as Becker aptly noted.
Update: A federal judge blocked the University of Washington from charging the UW College Republicans $17,000 in security fees for hosting a controversial speaker on campus, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday evening.
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.