Christian students receive $800k in free speech lawsuit ruling

After a prolonged legal battle with the university over violations of their free speech, students Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford have been granted a settlement of $800,000.

Georgia Gwinnett College attempted to avoid the legal ramifications of its actions by changing its free speech policies after the incident.

After a prolonged legal battle with Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) over violations of their First Amendment rights, students Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford have finally been granted a settlement of $800,000. 

The controversy, which eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, dates back to the Spring of 2016 when GGC officials restricted Uzuegbunam’s efforts to share his evangelical Christian faith on campus. 

GGC is a public college that at the time required students to book appointments in one of their two designated free speech zones to speak openly.

[RELATED: ‘After 2 year legal battle, school lets student pass out US Constitutions’]

After initially running into problems with the administration for preaching outside either of the zones, Uzuegbunam agreed to abide by the school’s policy. 

His speech was again stifled, however, when a campus police officer told him to stop, citing complaints from students and a campus policy that prohibited speech that “disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).”

The college attempted to avoid the legal ramifications of its actions by changing its free speech policies after the incident. 

Once Uzuegbunam’s case reached the Supreme Court, however, it was decided that a plaintiff is still entitled to damages from violations of their constitutional rights even if they subsequently were granted relief from the violation, as occurred with GGC’s policy change. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Travis Barham, who represented Uzuegbunam and Bradford in the case, told Campus Reform that “[f]or years after [GGC] violated his rights, GGC officials tried to dodge accountability, as if the rights they violated did not really matter. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Chike’s favor, saying that government officials do not get a free pass when they violate our liberties.”

[RELATED: ‘SCOTUS overwhelmingly sides with Christian student silenced on campus’]

In a statement released by ADF, Barham also said that “[t]his settlement represents a victory not only for Chike and Joseph but also for many other students who wish to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms on the campuses of Georgia’s public colleges and universities.” 

In a January 2021 op-ed for The Washington Post, Uzuegbunam expressed his gratitude for the freedoms America has to offer, and explained what brought him to bring his case to the Supreme Court. 

He shared the story of his parents immigrating to the US from Nigeria and the values which they helped instill in him. 

“They…taught [me] that in this land where liberty is precious, citizens have a duty to defend it when they see freedoms infringed. That is how I came to have a case before the Supreme Court that will be heard on Tuesday.”

Campus Reform reached out to GGC for comment, and attempted to contact Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford. This article will be updated accordingly.