2008-10-30 / Local & State

Pa. College, Student Group Settle Free Speech Suit

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - Shippensburg University and a religious student group have settled a lawsuit over alleged violations of free speech rights.

The Christian Fellowship of Shippensburg University asserted in a federal lawsuit filed in May that it had been threatened with being shut down because it requires members to be Christians and its president to be a man.

The group said the state-owned university violated a 2004 settlement of a separate lawsuit over the school's student code of conduct.

In the 2004 case, a civil liberties group sued the university over a student code barring "acts of intolerance'' including racist, sexist and homophobic speech. University officials said they would revise the code after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of that provision.

The Washington-based Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom said the latest lawsuit stemmed from Christian Fellowship's expulsion from campus by the student senate in February in a dispute over its membership and leadership requirements.

The group, which has been recognized by the university since the early 1970s, was later told it could resume operations but said it feared the possibility of further sanctions.

The Alliance Defense Fund said Thursday that the university "has agreed to correct the policies and respect the constitutional rights of its students.''

Shippensburg confirmed Thursday that the suit had been settled and said in a statement that it had not disciplined students for violating rules about speech, "nor has the university taken action against a student organization based on its membership criteria.''

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