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A community college in Arizona has rescinded its requirement that those who wanted to speak in public areas of the campus pay a $50 fee and submit to a number of other requirements.
“Free speech can’t come with a price tax and a burdensome waiting period,” Jonathan Scruggs said of the sudden changes made by officials at Maricopa Community College.
“Maricopa Community Colleges has done the right thing in changing its policy so that it respects free speech rights protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “Christians visiting public college campuses shouldn’t be deterred from expressing their beliefs because of cumbersome, unconstitutional policies.”
The changes followed a lawsuit that had been brought by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Mesa resident Ryan Arneson.
The case alleged charging fees, requiring an insurance payment and demanding a two-week advance notice was unconstitutional. The policy changes were part of a settlement to the case where the college also will pay Arneson’s attorneys’ fees.
The case started developing in 2010 when Arneson asked an official at South Mountain Community College what he would need to do in be allowed to share his faith on campus – by handing out literature and speaking with those who were willing to speak to him.
That was what Arneson had been doing for several years.
But at that point, school officials said he would have to follow the school’s “solicitation” policy even though he was only one individual who wanted to talk to people.
That procedure required individuals and groups alike pay a minimum of $50, pay for insurance and provide the written request in advance.
The revised policy drops the payment requirements, and has only a two-day prior notices procedure.
According to the ADF, South Mountain Community College was approached about the issue in 2011 when the ADF approached Chancellor Rufus Glasper, President Joyce Elsner and others about the burdens.
The case ultimately filed by ADF explained that Arneson simply wanted to share his religious perspective in “open, outdoor areas at SMCC.”
The case explained those areas are like “public parks, public sidewalks, and public pedestrian malls and are well suited for Arneson’s expression. Students and non-students have free access to these areas and commonly use them.”