The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

First Amendment applies to all

Don, a representative from Project Truth who declined to give his last name, talks to City College students. J.D. Villanueva //
Don, a representative from Project Truth who declined to give his last name, talks to City College students. J.D. Villanueva // [email protected]

PROJECT TRUTH, A SELFDESCRIBED pro-life group, came to City College Sept. 9 and 10 to stage a demonstration of its view that “abortion is murder.”

Displaying larger-than-life visual displays with photographs of aborted fetuses, a Project Truth representative who identified himself only as Shawn distributed flyers and talked to people on the quad.

Project Truth’s purpose is to “make everyone aware that when a woman has an abortion she is taking a human life,” according to Shawn.

Shawn defended the group’s use of images that its own literature describes as “disturbing.”

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution absolutely gives me this right,” he said, although not everyone who saw the display agreed.

“The Supreme Court has come up with a definition of what is offensive material. This is is not it—only material taken as a whole that has no scientificc, educational or artistic or political value. As grotesque as this is, it has artistic value.This is is not offensive, according to what our law says offensive is.”

Shawn was citing the Supreme Court’s decision defining obscenity, set down in a 1973 ruling of Miller v. California 413 U.S. 15, according to the Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

The Miller test outlines criteria for obscenity, which includes, “whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would  nd that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’; whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently o ensive way, sexual conduct speci cally de ned by the applicable state law, and whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scienti c value,” according to the Cornell Legal Information Institute.

Campus advocates of free speech differed on the validity of Project Truth’s argument.

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The Project Truth display was consistent with allowable use of school property based not only on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment but also on the District’s policy as explained by Amanda Davis, City College’s public information officer.

“The College and District policy is that events on campus cannot disrupt the teaching environment, which means that they can’t block walkways; they can’t prevent us from being ADA compliant,” said Davis. “ADA compliant means that people with disabilities can get around. Not harassing our students, not creating a noise problem that would infringe on instruction time.

“As long as they are not violating any of these things, they are fine,” Davis continued. “And because we are a public institution,the outside areas of our campus, not inside our facilities,are considered public space—meaning that it’s kind of like you are walking down the street. That sidewalk is public space. As long as someone is not preventing people from passing by, they can stand there and say pretty much anything or hand out  flyers or have a sign.”

One student who declined to give her name, said she recently had an abortion and asked what right did “[Project Truth] have to come on campus and show such o ensive photographs.”

Animal Science Major Jacob Seltzer said he was more troubled by the group’s predominantly male representation.

“When the men sit there and try to dictate and tell women they have no choice in the matter, especially when their part of the transaction of baby making is over, I have an issue with that,” said Seltzer.

“They do have the right [to be on campus],” Seltzer said. “I don’t have an issue with them coming on like that. I find that it’s my own choice to look at them or not, or speak with them or not, but have my on views on a more, you know, intellectual level and go, ‘Well, I think this,’which is the basis of free speech.”

The Los Rios Community College District,including City College,maintains a policy of upholding First Amendment rights of free speech, even for those whose messages and methods can be considered controversial, according to regulation R-1413(2.1), Use of Outdoor Areas .

“On College/District outdoor areas open to the public generally, all persons or organizations may exercise their constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly, and worship, and meet and distribute and sell noncommercial literature incidental to the exercise of these freedoms,” states the regulation issued by the Los Rios Office of the General Counsel.

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