Do Unis Have the Right to Ban Distribution of Free Condoms?

free condomsWhen a private American Jesuit university officially banned the distribution of condoms on campus recently, it caused a considerable amount of friction with a student sexual wellness group. Based in the suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, Boston College’s new policy was implemented after years of the Boston College Students for Sexual Health taking care of student wellbeing without incident.

In March, the group received a letter from the administration in which they were ordered to stop giving out free condoms and sexual health education kits to students. The letter noted that ‘the distribution of condoms is not congruent’ with the values and traditions of Boston College, explaining, ‘While we understand that you may not be intentionally violating university policy, we do need to advise you that, should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the university.’

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn wrote in a follow-up email, ‘As a Jesuit, Catholic university, there are certain Catholic commitments that we are called to uphold, including the commitment not to publicly distribute condoms on our campus.’ However, Lizzie Jekanowski, a senior and the chairwoman of the group, said that her actions may violate the administration’s rules, but are in keeping with her core Catholic values; ‘It harkens to a much deeper Catholic morality of caring for your neighbour — and that’s literally what we’re doing, is caring for our neighbours.’

Lizzie added that the new policy has not stopped the group from distributing condoms. She said, ‘Students are going to be having sex regardless, and unless they have the education to know that you need to use a condom every time — for pregnancy prevention, S.T.I. prevention — and unless they have them available, they’re not going to use it.’

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has offered its assistance should the administration decide to take disciplinary action against the student group. Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, commented, ‘They don’t have a right to impose their religious beliefs on students or faculty, through threats and intimidation, when those students or faculty are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activity.’

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