Palm Beach State College agrees to lift literature distribution ban while ADF lawsuit proceeds

School officials agree to allow some free speech for now, say they will revise other policies
Monday, January 10, 2011

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach State College officials agreed Monday to a court order that requires them to permit two members of Young Americans for Freedom to “disseminate leaflets and/or converse with the general public” several days per month while an Alliance Defense Fund lawsuit moves forward.

The all-out literature distribution ban greatly hindered the group from administering its “Get out the Vote” campaign before last November’s midterm elections. Palm Beach State College also agreed to revise its policies, including its restrictions on off-campus meetings of student groups, to ensure they comply with the First Amendment.

“Public colleges and universities should serve as our nation’s marketplaces of ideas, not as prisons of censorship,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Casey Mattox. “Palm Beach State did the right thing in agreeing to suspend this outright ban on free speech while it is being challenged in court.”

“From its outright ban on student speech to its regulation of student group meetings--even when off campus--Palm Beach State’s policies are among the most offensive to the First Amendment,” Mattox added.  “This is the first step toward permanently removing these burdensome restrictions on First Amendment-protected liberties.”

YAF members were denied permission to distribute Heritage Foundation literature at a student organization fair and were also prohibited from handing out information within the “free speech zones” on several PBSC campuses. College officials cited PBSC’s speech policies as their reason.

Although college policy demanded that speakers obtain permission to hand out materials 24 hours in advance, PBSC had informed the leader of YAF that it actually completely bans literature distribution. The ban made it difficult for YAF members to share their ideas through free materials and conversations with people willing to converse with them.

PBSC policies further deny constitutionally protected rights by requiring advance permission even for off-campus events held on weekends or past 9 p.m. on weekdays. Permission from the student services dean had to be requested two weeks prior to such events. At least two adult college staff members also had to be present at the activities, among several other stringent restrictions. Palm Beach State College represented to the court that it will bring these policies into compliance with the First Amendment. The order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Monday in Young Americans for Freedom v. Bryant requires the school to permit two YAF members to distribute literature and speak on campus in the interim.
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.