- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Two women whose 2006 lawsuit against the Georgia Institute of Technology led to the repeal of the school’s speech code await a federal judge’s opinion on two other unresolved issues in their civil rights case.

Plaintiffs Ruth Malhotra and Orit T. Sklar — both conservative student leaders at Georgia Tech — say a ruling is pending by U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester of the Northern District of Georgia on their requests to overturn a school policy that bans funding of religious and political groups with student activity fees and to shut down an administration-run program that challenges biblical doctrine concerning homosexuality.

“The clock is ticking away” on the rest of Judge Forrester’s decision, which “could come at any time,” said David French, director of the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, which is representing Miss Malhotra, a graduate student in international affairs from Georgia, and Miss Sklar, a senior in Tech’s undergraduate civil-engineering program.

Mr. French describes ADF as a “Christian public-interest legal organization” that promotes religious liberty on college campuses.

The plaintiffs and ADF brought the lawsuit a year ago, claiming that Tech’s policies designed to protect students from intolerance actually discriminated against conservative religious students who speak out against issues such as homosexuality, abortion and feminism.

Miss Malhotra accused Georgia Tech of “unlawfully promoting its own [left-wing] agenda while stifling the free expression” of students who hold positions the institution does not share. Both women have been active in College Republicans.

A spokesman for Georgia Tech declined last week to discuss the students’ suit, saying the case is in the hands of the Georgia state Attorney General’s Office.

“We got a great victory in August, when Judge Forrester repealed Georgia Tech’s speech code,” Miss Malhotra said.

She said her Christian faith compels her to denounce homosexuality. But Tech had a policy that banned speech about sexual orientation that people may find offensive.

Charging “viewpoint discrimination,” Miss Malhotra cited prior incidents in which Tech blocked protests she staged against an affirmation-action rally and a play.

In his ruling last summer, Judge Forrester ordered Tech to delete wording from its speech code that prohibits students from any attempt to “injure, harm” or “malign” a person because of “race, religious belief, color, sexual/affectational orientation, national origin, disability, age or gender.”

Miss Malhotra said she is eager to have the court address the school’s involvement in a program called “Safe Space” that she says “endorses some religions and denigrates others,” depending on their view of homosexuality.

Miss Malhotra points out that she is a Southern Baptist and knows that members of her faith have been condemned in the program because of their objections to homosexuality.

As for the plaintiffs’ bid to force Tech to allow private religious and political groups to receive funding from student activities fees, Mr. French and Miss Malhotra said they find it inconsistent that the school recently funded “Islamic Awareness Week.”

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