In a lawsuit filed last Thursday, two Christian, Michigan State University students represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, want money they claim is in the hands of Planned Parenthood returned. The lawsuit claims that hundreds of students were compelled by a far-left professor to pay nearly $100 membership fees to an entity called “The Rebellion Community” as a requirement for participating in the college course.
The business marketing professor, Amy Wisner, posted on social media that 100 percent of membership dues were donated to Planned Parenthood. The complaint says Wisner collected around $60,000 and used some of the funds to purchase an RV.
While the university declined to comment on pending litigation, it did indicate that Wisner is no longer employed at the institution. Wisner’s social media says that she is a “former business communication professor.”
In a press release, ADF described Wisner’s scheme:
On her syllabus under “course requirements,” Wisner required each of her 600 students to purchase “The Rebellion Community membership.” As the syllabus explained, “The Rebellion Community… is a global social learning community with a private space dedicated to this course.” Once students paid the $99 subscription fee online, they saw a statement that said, “Your membership fees are used to (1) pay for use of the technology and (2) pay guest speakers, educators, and facilitators. Your professor does not receive any financial compensation from your membership fees as that would be a conflict of interest.
The university said that the business school refunded students, which came in the form of a credit equal to the fee paid. Plaintiff Nathan Barbieri, a sophomore studying finance, says that it is not enough because the original funds are still in the hands of Planned Parenthood, saying:
I funded that. And until that money is brought back, until it is out of [the professor’s] hands, it’s still with Planned Parenthood, or it’s still being going towards an unethical organization.
The lawsuit seeks punitive and compensatory damages.
"Michigan State officials have violated the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws by authorizing professors to force students to support speech antithetical to their deepest values and faith." ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) May 22, 2023
ADF’s senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said the lawsuit is seeking a policy change at the university, saying:
We’re basically asking for all the money that she received to be given back to the students and then to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Nathan has two more years at the school. He doesn’t want professors to be able to do this. So we’re asking the court to order the university not to allow this to happen in the future.
The lawsuit claims that the pro-life students were horrified to learn that the compelled membership dues were funding Planned Parenthood, as they see abortion as the “homicide of innocent children.”
The second student represented in the lawsuit, Nolan Radomski, asserts that this is a First Amendment and free speech issue:
I shouldn’t have to pay for my professor’s political activism… This is a matter of free speech and I hope that the university changes its policy so that other students never have to pay expensive fees toward causes they don’t believe in.
ADF Attorney Longan Spena says this is an issue of compelled political speech, in violation of the Constitution:
The Constitution protects everyone, both from being compelled to speak themselves and from being compelled to subsidize the speech of people they don’t want to promote.
The “Rebellion Community” is controlled by Wisner, a self-proclaimed “intersectional feminist,” who aimed for the entity to support causes, outside of Planned Parenthood, as a means of “dismantling oppressive systems.”
According to the filling, Wisner said:
“The Rebellion community is a safe place to coordinate our efforts to burn everything to the f—ing ground.”
The Christian students purport that it was their faith that compelled them to take legal action.
I hold true to my Christian beliefs. [My faith] really pushed me to get out there and do something about it, because I knew if I didn’t, you know, and if nobody else did, what stops this from happening again and again.
ADF Counsel Spena says:
Michigan State officials have violated the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws by authorizing professors to force students to support speech antithetical to their deepest values and faith.
Additionally, Thomas Jeitschko, the interim provost and head of academic affairs at the university, is named as a defendant. ADF attorneys allege that he “personally approved the policy on the donation of proceeds received from assigned course materials at issue in this lawsuit,” and is responsible for “keeping existing programs updated and in conformity with University educational policies.”
Judith Whipple, Interim Dean of the Michigan State University Broad College of Business, is also a named defendant, for having the authority to approve or disapprove of Wisner’s membership fee student policy.
The case, Barbieri v. Jeitschko, is in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.
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