EXCLUSIVE – A Michigan State University (MSU) professor has been sued for allegedly forcing her students to pay $99 each to her personal political advocacy organization, which ultimately helped fund Planned Parenthood and other left-leaning causes and allegedly violated the students’ free speech rights.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday, Amy Wisner, professor of marketing at the MSU College of Business compelled each of her 600 students to pay a $99 membership fee to join an outside organization called “The Rebellion Community” as a condition of participation in her course.
The court document says Wisner controlled The Rebellion Community and used the membership fees to finance her own political advocacy and to support external groups like Planned Parenthood and progressive causes dedicated to “dismantling oppressive systems.”
According to the lawsuit Wisner linked to a Facebook page associated with “The Rebellion Community” and wrote, “The Rebellion community is a safe place to coordinate our efforts to burn everything to the f***ing ground.”
Attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom are representing students Nathan Barbieri and Nolan Radomski who say that their money was used by their professor to engage in political speech that is “antithetical to [their] deeply held beliefs,” and therefore their First Amendment rights were violated.
“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,” ADF Attorney Logan Spena told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“And this professor was simply using her position as a faculty at a university teaching a required course to require hundreds of students to do just that.”
According to the complaint Wisner used the funds collected from students — to the tune of around $60,000 — to also purchase an RV.
According to the complaint, the Barbieri and Radomski were “aghast to learn that the fees they were compelled to pay as membership fees would be donated to Planned Parenthood,” because they are pro-life and think abortion is “homicide of innocent children.”
The lawsuit says that, “when the government goes from restricting the chosen speech or association of its citizens to compelling them to speak its message or associate with its preferred confederates, ‘additional damage is done’ because ‘[f]orcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.’”
“The same harms occur when the government compels speech through forced financial contributions, since ‘[c]ompelling a person to subsidize the speech of other private speakers raises similar First Amendment concerns,’” the complaint says.
The lawsuit also names Thomas Jeitschko, interim provost and head of academic affairs at the university because 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.”
The university gave students who were enrolled in Wisner’s class a credit equal to the fee Wisner charged, but the credit does not stop Wisner from continuing to use the money to support her activism and other groups.
The lawsuit demands the school change its policy to not allow professors to require funding material that violates students’ First Amendment rights, are seeking nominal, compensatory and punitive damages from Wisner for “her purposeful violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”
Judith Whipple, interim dean at the business school, is also named in the lawsuit in her official capacity.
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Barbieri v. Jeitschko, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.