‘The heckler’s veto is alive and well at the University of Pittsburgh…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The Young America’s Foundation threatened to sue the University of Pittsburgh on Monday if the school does not rescind a discriminatory security fee imposed on conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s lecture.
Shapiro’s event at the university was pre-approved, but just two days before he was set to take the stage, the University of Pittsburgh told YAF it needed to pay a $5,546.52 security fee.
When asked why the fee was so high, the school cited “controversy” and “protests” at other schools as a justification.
Pittsburgh handed YAF the fee with little time to contest it or raise funds to pay it, potentially jeopardizing YAF’s future events on Pittsburgh’s campus.
“[The fee] allows the administrators to have unfettered discretion in determining what kind of security is needed for an event,” said YAF spokesperson Spencer Brown, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It opens the door … to charge conservatives for more security, whereas leftist speakers are not charged extra fees.”
YAF is willing to take it to court though, claiming the fee is intentionally discriminatory because it charged Shapiro’s event, but won’t charge other, leftists public speakers.
“The heckler’s veto is alive and well at the University of Pittsburgh,” Brown said in a statement. “Administrators at Pitt penalized YAF and College Republicans with an unconstitutional, exorbitant ‘security fee’ based on both the content of Ben Shapiro’s speech and the potential for protestors.”
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, YAF informed the university of its intent to challenge the fee on Nov. 13.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear: Public universities can’t enact policies that stifle free speech simply because administrators fear protestors might show up or students might be offended,” ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Larcomb said in a statement. “The reason for that is simple: Speech isn’t free if the speaker can be forced to pay money simply because somebody may object. The Supreme Court has specifically stated that security fees, such as the ones Pitt has assessed, aren’t constitutionally permissible.”