A lawyer is going into U.S. District Court in Michigan Tuesday to ask a judge to take down rules at Kellogg Community College that got three students arrested for handing out material the school apparently believes could cause trouble if not contained in a controlled setting.
And that material is the United States Constitution.
They are going to court on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty at Kellogg Community College and asking the court to strike the college’s practice of forbidding the distribution of Constitutions on campus.
Unless, of course, the distributing group applies for and obtains a permit to set up a table inside one of the buildings – and then waits for students to approach the table and ask for one.
“Like all public colleges, KCC is supposed to be ‘the marketplace of ideas,’ but instead, it arrested these club supporters for exercising their freedom of speech, and, ironically, for handing out copies of the very document – the Constitution – that protects what they were doing,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “Because public colleges have the duty to protect and promote the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, we are asking the court to prevent KCC from enforcing its unconstitutional policies while our lawsuit proceeds.”
The school has claimed that YAL supporters broke its rule requiring students to get permission before any “expressive activity” happens. And they also say the students violated a rule preventing students from those expressive activities out of doors.
The lawsuit challenges the college on the grounds that the policies grant officials too much discretion to restrict speech, and base their restrictions on the content and viewpoint of student speech. And because they demand that students get permission before speaking and then must do so only in certain rooms on campus.
WND reported earlier when the case developed, and it was documented that the same arguments arose in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
In the Kellogg case, students seeking to promote the Constitution’s perspective of freedom, when they “asked their fellow students whether they like the same freedom and liberty the Supreme Court declared essential to college life, defendants dubbed it ‘provocative’ and had them arrested, jailed, and charged with trespassing.”
The complaint before the court explains, “The charges were dismissed after plaintiffs retained counsel, but the chilling effect of this arrest lingers to this day and will linger until the policies underlying it are enjoined.”
It all happened after Michelle Gregoire, a KCC student, decided she wanted to start a YAL chapter. She tried setting up a table as the college outlined, but she was unsuccessful at attracting interest, at least partly because she was not allowed to approach students; she could only respond after they approached her.
So she tried to lobby for her effort on the campus itself, its grassy areas, sidewalks and park-like regions.
“Officials quickly stopped her, informing her that KCC policies required her to reserve a table inside the student center to speak with students about YAL,” the court filing explains.
These officials enforced defendants’ unwritten speech-zone policy, the ADF said.
“At no time did any of the three or four YAL-affiliated people impede access to buildings, access to parking lots, or the free flow of traffic on the sidewalks,” ADF reported. “Nor did they harass anyone who was not interested in talking with them …”
School officials insisted that asking students on public property whether they liked freedom and liberty amounted to “obstruction to their education” and school officials called police to arrest Nathan Berning, Isaac Ekikauska and Michelle Gregoire.
Such action violated the First Amendment and, since they are viewpoint-based, the limits are unconstitutional, the ADF is arguing.
The ADF is seeking an injunction that would prohibit enforcement of the speech permit and speech zone demands at the college.
The lawsuit names trustees Steve Claywell, Jill Booth, Matthew Davis, Reba Harrington, Jonathan Byrd, Jule Camp Seifke and Patrick O’Donnell, and members of the management staff.
The ban on the Constitution, however, isn’t even unique.
In 2011, WND reported a library banned distribution of the Constitution.
A federal judge in Shasta County Superior Court in Northern California granted an injunction that cleared the way for the distribution to continue.
A lawsuit was launched by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education against the school.
It was just one of several incidents that developed about the same time in Ocala, Florida, and Madison, Wisconsin.
See the incident in Modesto:
And in 2015, at Penn State, students were confronted by a police officer and told they needed to stop handing out the Constitution.
Just a few weeks ago, administrators at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston faced a lawsuit for ordering students with the campus Young Americans for Liberty chapter to stop distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution.
In defense of the students, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to the college contending its policies unconstitutionally “prohibit expressive activity on campus without advance permission and approval, restrict the content of printed materials that may be distributed, and grant unbridled discretion” to discriminate against minority viewpoints.