Univ. of Ga. sued for limiting speech to less than one percent of campus

ADF files challenge to unconstitutional speech policy
Friday, May 02, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  Travis Barham  |  David Hacker

ATHENS, Ga. — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Thursday against the University of Georgia on behalf of a student organization over the school’s small “speech zones” that together occupy less than one percent of the college’s main campus. If students wish to speak in other locations on campus, the university requires them to get permission 48 hours in advance.

“Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, and so they should promote and celebrate free speech, not quarantine it to less than one percent of the campus,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students in the outdoor areas of campus, regardless of their political beliefs. They should not have to register with college officials or comply with other arbitrary restrictions to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

In March 2011, Young Americans for Liberty, a non-partisan political student organization, conducted a debt clock display to draw attention to the mounting national debt. University officials told YAL they needed to cease their expressive activities because it was outside the speech zones even though other groups have expressed themselves in areas other than the speech zones.

YAL would like to speak freely and distribute literature on campus outside the designated speech zones but fears punishment from university officials. The policy restricts YAL’s activities, but it also applies to all other students and student groups on campus.

The lawsuit, Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Georgia v. Morehead, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, explains, “The First Amendment rights of free speech and press extend to campuses of state universities,” and their “ability to restrict speech--particularly student speech--in a public forum [like the outdoor areas of campus] is limited.” Moreover, the suit explains, the U.S. Constitution “guarantees a citizen the right to express his views anonymously and spontaneously in public forums.”

“Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “We hope that the University of Georgia will revise its policy so that students no longer have to jump through unconstitutional hoops to exercise the freedoms that the First Amendment protects.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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