SALEM — Two pro-life student leaders are plaintiffs in a free speech lawsuit filed May 6 against Chemeketa Community College here.

The lawsuit was entered in the U.S. District Court in Eugene by an attorney for the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

The lawsuit stems from a Feb. 26 event on campus about physician-assisted suicide. Students for Life leaders Marcos Sanchez and Emma Howell were able to host their event, but were forbidden from promoting the event outside. They also were barred from handing out flyers promoting free, pro-life resource centers.

“Across the country, we are seeing incredible opposition to the pro-life speech of our student leaders and volunteers as they speak for the defenseless and educate their fellow students on abortion,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a prepared statement. “But the law and the Constitution are clear on the matter: Public schools cannot silence pro-life groups or force them to self-censor.”

Students for Life of America includes more than 1,225 student groups on high school and college campuses.

“The only permission slip students need in order to speak on public college campuses is the First Amendment,” said Michael Ross, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Students don’t give up their constitutionally protected freedoms when they step on to campus or hold a specific viewpoint. Our clients have the right to peacefully engage and persuade their peers. They also have the freedom to support pregnant and parenting students without censorship or harassment from their school.”

Sanchez, a member of St. Mary Parish in Mount Angel, has been active nationally in the pro-life movement. He also started a pro-life club at John F. Kennedy High School in Mount Angel, where he graduated at the top of his class.