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America’s universities take pride in their promotion of the free exchange of ideas, but many regularly censor the speech of students, and the legal advocacy group Alliance Defense Fund is working to change that.
The organization has announced a campaign that targets certain public universities and colleges with letters explaining that their speech restrictions, speech codes, club policies and activity-fee policies violate students’ rights.
“Public universities should encourage, not censor, the free exchange of ideas,” said Kevin Theriot, a senior counsel for the organization.
“The objective of this effort is to inform university and college officials of how their policies conflict with the Constitution, as reinforced by numerous federal court rulings, so that the schools can make changes,” he said. “This gives them the opportunity to respect the constitutionally protected rights of their students without any costly litigation
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Of the some 160 universities identified as problematic, the first letters from ADF found their way to about 40 in 23 states. They are: , Auburn, Jacksonville State, Troy, Central Arkansas, Northern Arizona, UCLA, Cal-Riverside, Colorado State-Pueblo, Colorado State, Northern Colorado, Central Connecticut, Hawaii-Hilo, Idaho, Kansas State, University of Kansas, Frostburg, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, Missouri-Columbia, Southern Mississippi, William Patterson, Brooklyn, SUNY-Fredonia, Elizabeth City, Appalachian State, Northern Carolina Central, Kutztown, Mansfield, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Texas Woman’s, Houston, Texas-Austin, Virginia Tech, Evergreen State, Washington and three state university branches in Alaska.
ADF said that among the policies that cause problems are speech codes, “free speech zones” that put unconstitutional restrictions on basic speech, rules that force student clubs to accept officers who don’t agree with the club’s beliefs and allowing non-religious student clubs to use student activity fees but denying the same right to religious student groups.
ADF said the letters already are making a difference.
Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina has agreed to modify a policy that “unconstitutionally limits student expression to a small wooded area on campus,” the organization reported.
The site quotes a Penn State official who said “acts of intolerance will not be tolerated.” At Savannah State, the biblical tradition of foot-washing was described as “hazing” when authorities punished members of a club.
In a case WND reported, a professor in the Los Angeles Community College District called a Christian student a “fascist b—-rd” for discussing a moral conviction against homosexual marriage.
After erupting angrily in class, the professor, John Matteson, then told the student, “Ask God what your grade is.”
The case erupted shortly after the presidential election in 2008, when Matteson censored and threatened to expel student Jonathan Lopez following a speech he gave about his Christian faith during an open-ended assignment in a public speaking class.
According to ADF, after Lopez gave the dictionary definition of marriage and recited two Bible verses, Matteson interrupted and ended Lopez’s presentation mid-speech, calling him and anyone who voted yes on Proposition 8 – the California marriage amendment – a “fascist b—-rd” in front of the class.