As the last official act of its 2019-20 term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued some final orders on Thursday addressing cases which it has been asked to accept. One of the cases it chose to hear and will be addressed in the upcoming term beginning in October has to do with a student sharing his faith on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Chike Uzuegbunam was a student at the college in 2016 when he attempted to share his faith on campus. Because he had not reserved nor was standing within one of the two tiny speech zones designated by the school administration for free speech (zones that together made up only a minuscule 0.0015% of campus), he was warned to cease and desist.
Even after he reserved a spot in the appropriate zone, and even received approval for the words he was going to speak, the college forced him to stop because someone complained.
Uzuegbunam brought a First Amendment lawsuit against the college with the help of lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom. In response to the lawsuit, the college amended its policies, after which two federal courts refused to look at the student’s claim for nominal damages.
Why is that a problem? Free speech violations at the nation’s colleges and universities are ubiquitous, and The Daily Citizen has covered many of those stories. But even when a school administration gets caught violating someone’s rights and changes a policy to avoid a lawsuit, there is no guarantee that the school will not revert to its free-speech-infringing ways down the road. Schools shouldn’t be allowed to escape a more permanent course correction with their policies by simply changing a policy and waiting a couple of years until the affected students graduate.
That’s why the news that the Supreme Court is taking on this case is so important. With so many cases popping up around the country on this very issue, a high court decision setting forth the applicable principles and standards for colleges and universities in future cases will be an important contribution to the entire body of First Amendment law.
We’ll keep you abreast of all the developments in this case as it develops.
The case is Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.
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