5th Circuit gives ADF victory for free speech at UT-Austin

Federal appeals court agrees restrictions on student leafleting at UT-Austin unconstitutional
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas — Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the decision of a district court that declared restrictions on free speech and leafleting at the University of Texas at Austin unconstitutional.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys won the case on behalf of Justice for All, a pro-life student organization on campus.  The Court of Appeals decision gives Christian students the right to engage in unimpeded religious leafleting on campus.

A federal district court judge ruled on March 3 of last year that the University of Texas’ requirement that students place their names and personal information on leaflets was unconstitutional.  The name requirement had a chilling effect, making students fearful of handing out leaflets on controversial topics like abortion.  The university appealed the decision, and ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb argued the case before the appeals court Feb. 1.

The court upheld the lower court’s decision and made it applicable to all UT-Austin student organizations.  The court also reinforced past holdings that public university campuses are forums designated for the free speech of their students.  The full text of the court’s opinion can be read here.

“The intellectual monopoly held by the left has been cracked,” said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull.  “Organizations like Justice for All now have the same freedom Thomas Paine did in Philadelphia over 200 years ago in challenging the status quo.  An idea is a powerful thing in the hands of the committed.  All these students want is a chance to share their ideas.”

ADF attorneys filed the case, Justice for All v. Faulkner, on Sept. 30, 2002.  ADF has been successful in protecting the free religious expression rights of students and organizations on many university campuses, including Ohio State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Southwest Missouri State University, the University of Oklahoma, Rutgers University, and the University of Houston.

ADF attorneys are currently representing the Justice for All student organization at the University of Colorado at Boulder for violations of the First Amendment rights of members of that chapter.

“ADF will continue to defend the First Amendment rights of Christian students on campuses across the nation,” Bull said.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.