The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Friday that the United States Supreme Court has decided to hear a significant campus free speech case at some point during its upcoming term.
The matter was initiated by two Georgia Gwinnett College students who were prevented from distributing Christian reading material at the institution’s Lawrenceville campus in July of 2016.
When Chike Uzuegbunam attempted to disseminate the religious literature, the college junior was told that he would need to secure permission from the administration at least three days in advance, according to the Journal-Constitution.
What’s more, he was informed that such evangelism could only be conducted within one of the campus’ two so-called “free speech expression” areas, as the Journal-Constitution also noted.
Policies designed “to silence”
Even when he did secure the necessary permit and restricted his activities to the designated zones, however, Uzuegbunam was ultimately ordered by campus police to cease and desist after the institution received complaints.
“College officials didn’t really care about where I was standing; they just didn’t like what I was saying,” Uzuegbunam was quoted by the Journal-Constitution as saying. “So, they invoked these policies to silence me.”
He and another student took Georgia Gwinnett College to court over the dispute, but a federal judge dismissed the case in 2018 on the grounds that the policies governing speech had since been revised. That decision was upheld the next year on appeal, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Uzuegbunam is represented by attorney John Bursch, who works with the conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, and he explained why that dismissal wasn’t an acceptable outcome. “Government officials must be held responsible for enacting and enforcing policies that trample students’ constitutionally protected freedoms,” he said. “If they get off scot-free, they or others can simply do it again.
“Now, it looks like Chike was wrong because his lawsuit was dismissed,” the lawyer complained. “The whole world should know his rights were violated.”
The advocacy group added in a statement that “these policies hurt real people,” including “people like Chike. And we are grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to give him another chance at obtaining justice,” they said.
The Supreme Court announced on July 9 that it had granted Uzuegbunam’s petition to hear his case, although no date for arguments has yet been set.
Hopefully, Bursch and Uzuebunam will ultimately succeed at the high court, and the free speech rights of religious students on college campuses across the country will be rightfully affirmed.