The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about students’ freedom of speech at Gwinnett College in Georgia.
Gwinnett College, which receives federal funds, restricted speech to two small speech zones on campus opened only 18 hours per week. Students needed a reservation as well. The school also banned speech that “disturbs the peace and/or comfort” of others.
Student Chike Uzuegbunam wanted to speak about his Christian faith, so he reserved the time and place. On the day Uzuegbunam began to talk to other students and hand out literature in the speech zone he’d reserved, a campus police officer pulled him to the side and told him he had to stop. Someone complained, which meant, according to school policy, he’d disturbed the peace and/or comfort of an offended student.
After Uzuegbunam sued the school for violating his First Amendment right, administrators changed the policy but didn’t rectify their treatment of Uzuegbunam.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Uzuegbunam’s legal counsel, said that Gwinnett College allowed students to play “loud and sometimes vulgar and obscene music inside and outside the tiny speech zones on campus.” If these students could freely express themselves this way, surely Uzuegbunam could talk about his faith.
After two federal courts declined to review the issue, Uzuegbunam appealed to the nation’s highest court. From ADF:
“Government officials must be held responsible for enacting and enforcing policies that trample students’ constitutionally protected freedoms. If they get off scot free, they or others can simply do it again,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Neither the district court nor the appeals court held Georgia Gwinnett College officials accountable for how they repeatedly mistreated, censored, and intimidated the two students involved in this case, so it’s appropriate for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the matter.”
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last year to protect free speech on college campuses.
“We reject oppressive speech codes, censorship, political correctness, and every other attempt by the hard left to stop people from challenging ridiculous and dangerous ideas,” the president said. “These ideas are dangerous. Instead, we believe in free speech, including online and including on campus.”
Photo credit: ADF