Court refuses to reconsider ruling against Georgia Tech

Judge notes university’s “lack of candor throughout litigation” in lawsuit filed by ADF attorneys on behalf of Tech students
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ATLANTA — A federal judge Wednesday denied a request by the Georgia Institute of Technology to reconsider his previous ruling which struck down provisions of the institute’s “Safe Space” training program as unconstitutional because it favored one religious denomination over another. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom represent two students, Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra, who were subjected to religious discrimination at the school.

“A public university should not be openly disparaging the beliefs of students who hold to a biblical view of homosexual behavior while endorsing other views. The university’s Safe Space program openly ridiculed the faith of many students while declaring that people in other religious groups have the ‘correct’ beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “The court was right to refuse to reconsider its decision.”

The April 29 ruling put an end to discriminatory provisions of Georgia Tech’s Safe Space program. Previously, the court also ordered a repeal of Georgia Tech’s speech code, which punished students for speech that school officials deemed to be “intolerant.” The court denied a request by school officials that the case be dropped and prohibited the university from changing its new student speech policy without court approval for five years. The litigation also forced Georgia Tech to discontinue its “free speech zone,” which actually limited student speech to a small amphitheater on campus.

In his order Wednesday, Judge J. Owen Forrester noted “the lack of candor of Georgia Tech throughout the litigation of this case” and referenced a May 1 Georgia Tech press release that claimed the institute “will not be required to take any action” as a result of the court’s Safe Space ruling. The release also claimed that “the judge ruled in favor of the Georgia Tech free speech zone policy and use of student activity fees” and that “Georgia Tech practices are exactly the same as before the suit was filed.”

Forrester wrote, “Anyone with passing familiarity of the instant litigation would not be faulted for questioning the accuracy of numerous portions of this short press release. In fact, all three of the four challenged policies are materially different than they were before the suit. As to the fourth, although the court did not order a change, the court did not discuss Georgia Tech’s student activity fee program for 23 pages in any way to ‘rule in favor’ of the program [as the press release claimed].”

The full text of the order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Sklar v. Clough is available here.

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.  

www.telladf.org