Due South, a student publication at the University of South Alabama, has been printed by local business Interstate Printing since 2012. However, when the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Sara Boone, sent over the latest issue for printing, she received an unexpected response.
“After reviewing the subject matter of the 2019 Fall edition of Due South, we must respectfully decline to print this issue of the publication,” Tracey Smith, a spokesperson for Interstate Printing, wrote in an email addressed to Boone that was provided to NBC News. “As the magazine expresses freedom of lifestyles, we must express our freedom by declining to print on the principle that we are a Christian company that does not adhere to the content.”
The email also stated that the company had been working with the University of South Alabama for more than 40 years and hoped to continue working with the school on other projects.
Boone said the diversity-themed issue was replete with a mix of different stories about the campus community, featuring writing about race, body positivity, disability, religion and LGBTQ issues. She believes Interstate’s refusal to print the issue was due to its LGBTQ content.
“Initially I was shocked. It never crossed my mind that we’d have an issue with the company,” Boone, 21, said. “I wrote back to let them know that I wished that would have been something they disclosed on their website and that we would be using a different printing company in the future.”
Interstate Printing, which did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment, states on its company website that it is a Christian organization that “will serve the Lord God Almighty in any way we can,” but did not expound on its religious beliefs, or otherwise indicate that it will not print specific content.
“This is more than having personal beliefs,” Boone said. “This is actively discriminating against a group of people and trying to silence their stories.”
The University of South Alabama’s administration has commended its students for honoring their principles, but hopes this situation can foster “constructive dialogue” among those with “differing perspectives.”
“The University of South Alabama is committed to the principles of freedom of expression and the exchange of different points of view. We respect our students for having the courage of their convictions,” Bob Lowery, the school’s director of communications and media, wrote in an emailed statement. “At the same time, we also respect the rights of individuals and private businesses to make decisions that are consistent with their values.”
Because Due South’s editorial team planned to launch their latest edition Nov. 20, they needed to act quickly to find a new printing company. Luckily, once the community discovered the situation with Interstate Printing, five local companies swooped in, offering their services so the magazine could be released as originally planned, Boone said.
“We’re not trying to convert people’s beliefs. People can do what they want; they can read the stories or not,” Boone said. “But I know what these stories are worth.”
“We are the voice of the University of South Alabama students and the people in our community,” she added.