October 12, 2002--An anti-abortion student group at Washington University is getting another advocate in its fight to be recognized.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri has joined a free speech and student-rights advocacy organization to back the cause of the group, which has been denied recognition by the law school's student government.

The ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education issued an "open letter" Friday. It called on the university's Student Bar Association to "recognize the right of your fellow students to organize in accordance with their own beliefs, even if you disagree with those beliefs."

SBA is the school's student government. Its duties include approving student groups and distributing among those groups activity-fee money the school collects from students. Approved groups use the money for various educational and social functions.

At issue is a newly-formed group called Law Students Pro-Life, which has applied to the SBA twice this semester for recognition, though not for money. The SBA turned the group down both times on the ground that it was too narrowly focused.

After the first rejection, the group turned for help to Philadelphia-based FIRE, which took the issue public earlier this week. FIRE has alleged that the university is stifling the group's freedom of speech and association.

Joel Seligman, dean of the law school, has privately and publicly urged the SBA to reconsider.

In a meeting Thursday night, SBA members who spoke were adamant in their opposition to what they described as a one-issue group. Another meeting on the issue was scheduled for Monday.

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