Conservative group has enough, sues New Jersey school over 'unconstitutional' policies

Montclair State University is being sued over its "unconstitutional" free speech policy.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty.

A New Jersey university has been named in a lawsuit targeting an “unconstitutional” speech policy.

The Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Montclair State University, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, filed the suit Wednesday after a demonstration on campus was allegedly shut down by campus police in September, according to a press release from the ADF

The lawsuit states that “the university’s unconstitutional policies restrict and suppress student speech.”

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In the suit and the press release, the group documented an incident from September 10, in which three students demonstrating against gun-free zones were allegedly stopped by a campus police officer for not having the proper permission to speak. 

The policy,  called the Demonstrations and Assemblies Policy, stated that anyone, especially groups or organizations, should give two weeks of advance notice to the dean of students with their “planned objective” of the event. The dean would then review the application and either approve or reject the application or, the suit alleges, modify the demonstration of “any reason …. within any set timeframe.”

“The students, affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty,” the press release stated, “are challenging the two-week requirement because it unconstitutionally suppresses all speech and because it allows the university to deny or delay a student’s request for permission for any reason.”

The suit also alleges that the Office of the Dean “has the power to selectively enforce the Speech Permit Policy based upon the content and viewpoint of students’ speech,” and called the policy an “unconstitutional prior restraint.”

[RELATED: Free speech experts slam university for policy requiring “respect for authority”]

In addition to the speech policy, the suit also targeted the Student Government Association, in which the suit alleges that the use of a “class system”  would prevent certain groups, such as YAL from accessing funds based on their viewpoints.

“The University’s student organization regulations authorize the SGA to reward favored groups with a high ‘class’ status,” the suit continued, “while disfavoring groups like YAL with a low status which excludes them from many of the benefits enjoyed by other student organizations.”

The suit details the ranked class system as split up into four class systems, in which Class IV organizations could not request any money from SGA, while Class I organizations could receive upward of $5,000 for their yearly budget funded by student fees.

The suit also warned that the SGA had “no objective guidelines” regarding the classification of organizations or whether or not they receive funds from SGA, meaning that the club’s viewpoints could be grounds for a club’s disqualification from receiving funds.

A third area the suit covered was targeted at the university's "Bias Education Response Taskforce."

The suit also stated that the BERT policy would be “preventing plaintiffs from engaging in other core political speech” because of the lack of definition for “harassment, intimidation or bullying” and the college to issue any discipline “from probation to expulsion.”

[RELATED: Did Ole Miss prof suggest criminal punishment for speech 'bias'?]

All three allegations in the suit were seen as potential violations of the students’ Due Process rights because certain provisions were seen as “unconstitutionally vague” and also alleged the policies violated the students’ free speech rights.

“Montclair State University is absolutely and unequivocally committed to freedom of speech,” Montclair President Susan A. Cole told Campus Reform about the school's policies.

The president explained that Montclair's demonstration and assemblies policies are based on a “balance between two principles,” which include the “right of members of the University community to freedom of assembly and speech and the benefits to be derived in a free society and in a free and open University,” and that “all members of the University community to be able to engage without disruption in all University organized activities.”

“The University has adopted appropriate procedures to assure that it functions in accordance with those principles, and we have no reason to think that we have taken any action in violation of our principles or policies,” Cole concluded.

Campus Reform reached out to the YAL chapter at Montclair and ADF for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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