Okla. university, student journalists settle lawsuit over Christian newspaper

OKLAHOMA — Two students at the University of Oklahomahave settled a lawsuit over a school policy forbidding the allocation of studentfees to their Christian newspaper.Ricky Thomas and James Wickett broughtthe lawsuit against the school Feb. 20 because they claimed that the policy,which bars the use of student fees for “religious services,”violated their rights to a free press and free speech. Because of the policy,the university’s student government, which allocates student fees, gavethe Beacon OU only $150 instead of the $2,300 it requested.Thestudents settled the lawsuit April 2, and the school agreed to change the policyby removing “religious services” from the list of items that cannotbe paid for with student fees or state funds. The settlement agreement alsostates that the university will pay the students $2,500. Wickett said $1,000will go toward printing the newspaper, and $1,500 will be used forlawyer’s fees.“I’m pleased with the settlement,”Wickett said. “I’m pleased that the right thing was actually done,and I’m pleased about more than just the money getting to the BeaconOU, I’m very pleased that the [policy] is being changed for theUniversity of Oklahoma and that future student groups won’t have similarproblems.”The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that publicuniversities could not deny funding to student-edited religious publicationsbecause of their content.Joe Harroz, the university’s attorney,declined to comment.

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