Forbidden to hand out anti-abortion pamphlets on her community college campus, student Ethel Borel-Donohue is fighting for her First Amendment rights with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio bans distribution of literature on campus, except by student groups with prior approval.
“The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “If someone’s claim to be offended by speech were all it took to overrule the First Amendment, we would all be reduced to silence. Thankfully the Constitution does not recognize a ‘right not to be offended.’”
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Borel-Donohue handed out 15 flyers alleging that birth control pills and abortion may raise breast cancer risks. She gave the flyers to classmates in a paralegal course after class had let out. One student complained of being offended; the paralegal program chair told Borel-Donohue not to hand out any materials.
FIRE also is protesting censorship of an art instructor’s painting at Gainesville State College in Georgia. Stanley Bermudez’s painting, showing torch-wielding Klansmen and a lynching superimposed on a Confederate flag, was removed from a faculty art exhibition by GSC President Martha T. Nesbitt. The “health and reputation” of the college was at stake, said Nesbitt, who said the painting’s imagery “has been perceived as aggressively hostile in other areas of the country.”