DOJ joins free speech lawsuit against Georgia college
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief in support of a student’s lawsuit accusing Georgia Gwinnett College of preventing him from discussing his religious beliefs on campus.
As previously reported by Campus Reform, GGC student Chike Uzuegbunam alleges that he was prohibited from distributing religious pamphlets outside of the school’s library, even though he claims to have received advance permission, because the location was not in one of the two free-speech zones on campus.
"A national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights is long overdue."
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) then filed a lawsuit against the school in December on the behalf of Uzuegbunam, with ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham remarking at the time that “while touting commitments to ‘diversity’ and ‘open communications,’ Georgia Gwinnett College confines the speech of students to two ridiculously small speech zones and then censors the speech that occurs in those areas.”
The DOJ filed a statement of interest Tuesday, arguing that the school’s actions violated the student’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because “the college’s speech policies were not content-neutral, established an impermissible heckler’s veto, and were not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.”
According to The Gwinnett Daily Post, the DOJ brief states that the government has “significant interest” in the case given its duty to ensure “the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms in institutions of higher learning.”
“Congress has declared that ‘an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas,” the brief adds. “In recent years, however, concerns have been raised that some institutions of higher education have failed to answer this call, and that free speech has been under attack on campuses across the country.”
“A national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights is long overdue,” remarked Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Which is why, starting today, the Department of Justice will do its part in this struggle. We will enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression.”
Travis Barham, lead litigator on this case for ADF, told Campus Reform that ADF is “delighted” that the DOJ is taking interest in this case, noting that ADF has long encouraged the Department is taking the constitutional rights of students seriously.
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