Federal Court Rules Student Prevented From Sharing Faith on Campus Can Seek Damages

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 last summer that Chike Uzuegbunam could seek nominal damages from Georgia Gwinnett College after violating his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Uzuegbunam wanted to share the Gospel with fellow students and hand out pamphlets on campus. He complied with the school’s restrictive policies to reserve a time, have the materials approved, and remain in certain locations limited to 18 hours per week. Once he started speaking, however, campus police approached him, took his ID card, and told him to stop because someone complained.

Uzuegbunam sued Georgia Gwinnett College, seeking an injunction and nominal damages. Afterward, the school changed the policy and claimed the request for an injunction was moot. The school also said that Uzuegbunam and another student who joined the suit didn’t have standing to sue for damages. After losing in lower courts, Uzuegbunam  appealed the high court.

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 last summer that government officials should be held accountable for injuries they cause. In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said that because Uzuegbunam and the other student no longer attended the school, the restrictions no longer exist, and the plaintiffs never alleged actual damages, the issue was moot.

Georgia Gwinnett College still argued that the issue was moot, but a federal court last month disagreed, ruling that Uzuegbunam can move forward in his effort to seek damages from the school. From Alliance Defending Freedom:

“We need to ensure that the wrong done to our clients is righted,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The Supreme Court saw the importance of addressing these legal violations on the merits, and now so has the district court. Hopefully, this will send a signal to college and university officials nationwide that students do not lose their constitutional rights at the campus gates and that anyone who ignores these priceless freedoms can be held to account.”

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