NY college reverses course, allows free speech

Community college officials agree to allow student to hand out fliers after receiving letter from ADF attorneys
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A student told he could not distribute a pro-life newsletter on the campus of Kingsborough Community College will be allowed to do so as a result of a letter sent to the school by the Alliance Defense Fund.

“Pro-life students shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “In this case, campus security officers and several administrators tried to stop a student from passing out pro-life fliers even though no campus policy prohibited him from doing so. We commend the college for quickly rectifying this situation and affirming our client’s rights protected by the First Amendment.”

On Sept. 24, Joseph Hayon was distributing copies of a pro-life newsletter to passersby outside the KCC cafeteria. He was approached by a campus security officer who told him that he could not “give out fliers on campus” because they did not have an official stamp from the Office of Student Life. However, no school policy even discusses students distributing literature on campus.

After speaking with several campus officials, Hayon was eventually told that he could have a table on campus to distribute his literature; however, he would have to wait eight days to receive the table, he could only used it for four hours at a time, and he could not directly hand the literature to those who passed by.

In the letter sent March 11, ADF attorneys wrote, “To date, KCC has identified no interests that would support its restrictions on Mr. Hayon’s leafleting, particularly since courts readily recognize that peaceful leafleting poses little (if any) risk of disruption. One OSL official indicated that he could not distribute literature because it might ‘offend people.’ Yet the Supreme Court…could not be clearer on this point:  the First Amendment exists to protect offensive speech, and KCC simply cannot silence speech because some people find it offensive. Indeed, this is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment.”

In its response, dated March 16, counsel for KCC said the college would allow Hayon to pass out his fliers freely, without the restrictions it previously imposed.
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.