Lawsuit accuses college of 'limiting' first amendment rights
- A self-described non-partisan student group at the College of Charleston filed a lawsuit alleging the college violated their First Amendment rights.
- South Carolina Politics Club's legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, said the group has repeatedly been denied status as a Registered Student Organization.
- RSO status would make SCPC eligible to "reserve meeting space, invite speakers, and access the pool of mandatory student activity fees."
A self-described non-partisan political student group at the College of Charleston in South Carolina recently filed a lawsuit against the college for denying them the status of a registered campus organization. While the college explained that they decided to do so because of the similarity to other clubs, the lawsuit explains otherwise.
The conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom is currently representing the group.
The South Carolina Politics Club is a aims to be a non-partisan political organization, according to the lawsuit. The group hopes to educate students and members on local and state politics without any partisan affiliation.
In an ADF article news release, the organization suggests, “The college claims that the student group duplicates the purpose of the Fusion Party, a registered student organization that also encourages political engagement. However, the Fusion Party and SCPC differ in purpose, mission, and importantly, speech.”
According to the College of Charleston’s website, the Fusion Party’s mission is “to educate the students of the College of Charleston on State and local politics of South Carolina… [and] to not limit itself to one party.
The ADF news release further suggests, “The college has repeatedly denied the group registered student organization status, a gateway to numerous resources that include the ability to reserve meeting space, invite speakers, and access the pool of mandatory student activity fees that SCPC members pay into.”
Alliance Defending Freedom went on to defend the South Carolina Politics Club by citing that the Constitution requires mandatory student-fees be allocated in a neutral manner. The group highlights the fact that members of this group already pay these fees, which are allocated to a group with that differing viewpoints.
“The First Amendment protects citizens’ rights to associate with other like-minded individuals and to speak free from government discrimination on the basis of the content and viewpoint of their speech. This freedom from government censorship applies to all government actors, but especially to public colleges and universities. Public institutions of higher learning are uniquely expected, socially and legally, to be the free marketplace of ideas”, the lawsuit explained.”
Like many on college campuses, both the student group and Alliance Defending Freedom believe that colleges should be an open marketplace to exchange ideas and expound upon them.
The lawsuit further suggests, “The Registered Student Organization RSO Registration Policy lacks objective criteria, factors, or standards for determining whether a group may become an RSO, and thus affords Defendants and other College officials unbridled discretion to grant or deny registration to an RSO-applicant, permitting discrimination against an RSO-applicant because of the content and/or viewpoint of its speech.”
It goes onto state, “The Unregistered Organization Policy is facially viewpoint discriminatory because it prevents unregistered organizations from hosting any events and prevents them from interacting with any RSO including cosponsoring events.
In a statement, Blake Meadows, the ADF lead legal counsel, stated, “[the] College of Charleston administrators are limiting SCPC members’ First Amendment freedoms by giving them three unreasonable options: Change their group’s core mission, merge with another group that has different beliefs, or give up the benefits of being a registered student organization.”
The College of Charleston stated that the University doesn’t comment on pending litigation.