College students sue MSU over $99 political fee

Two students sued Michigan State University officials in federal court after a professor required them to pay $99 to advance progressive political causes that conflict with the students' beliefs.

The lawsuit, brought by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of students Nathan Barbieri and Nolan Radomski, claims that marketing professor Amy Wisner compelled each of her 600 students to pay a $99 membership fee to join a progressive political advocacy organization.

The suit says Wisner donated the proceeds of those fees to external groups, including Planned Parenthood, that engage in political advocacy antithetical to college students Nathan Barbieri and Nolan Radomski’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

“University professors can’t force students to finance and support political advocacy groups that express messages they disagree with Nathan and Nolan simply want to get a business degree without being compelled to pay membership fees that will be donated to Planned Parenthood or support speech that directly contradicts their religious beliefs,” ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena said in a statement. “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 attorneys filed the lawsuit, Barbieri v. Jeitschko, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.

In the spring of this year, Barbieri and Radomski enrolled in Wisner’s course, “Business Communication,” a required course to complete their undergraduate business degrees.

On Wisner’s 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 lawsuit notes Wisner was using the nearly $60,000 each time she taught the class to engage in political speech and donate to advocacy groups that directly conflict with Barbieri and Radomski’s religious beliefs.

For example, in a Facebook post, Wisner linked to a Facebook page associated with “The Rebellion Community” and posted: “The Rebellion community is a safe place to coordinate our efforts to burn everything to the f***ing ground.” Wisner’s post also said: “100% of membership fees are donated to Planned Parenthood.”

MSU hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

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