Penn State revokes unconstitutional speech codes after ADF intervention


Monday, May 22, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. — In another victory for students on college and university campuses, Pennsylvania State University officials have agreed to revoke the school’s speech code shortly after the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit challenging the code in federal court.

“America’s colleges and universities should give conservative and religious students the same rights as all other students.  This is an excellent outcome for those who believe that universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas,” said David French, director of ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom.  “The old draconian speech codes were unconstitutional because they enabled university officials to engage in blatant viewpoint discrimination.  The new policies make it impossible to punish a student expressing his or her viewpoint simply because someone finds that speech offensive.”

The significant revision in speech code policy followed a lawsuit filed by ADF attorneys on behalf of Alfred Joseph “A.J.” Fluehr, a Penn State student who feared that he would be punished under university policies that banned any “attitude, feeling, or belief” that showed contempt for, among other things, political beliefs.  The university recently used these policies to prohibit a student from displaying an art exhibit designed to protest the culture of terrorism in the Palestinian territories.

“Penn State will better serve its students and academia in general now that it has revoked the old policy, which discouraged open discussion on campus,” said French.  “Colleges and universities should welcome the free exchange of ideas, and we hope that Penn State’s actions will demonstrate to universities that the age of the speech code is over.”

A copy of Penn State’s new policies on speech can be read at guru.psu.edu/policies/AD29.html and guru.psu.edu/policies/AD42.html.  A copy of ADF’s complaint in the case Fluehr v. Pennsylvania State University (which quotes Penn State’s original speech codes) can be read here.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

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