UPDATE: The Colorado School of Mines has decided to remove all donor nameplates from its football locker room rather than allow former football player, Michael Lucas, to include a Bible reference on his nameplate.
College is one big melting pot, at least the larger public universities are. I graduated from Arizona State, so trust me, I know.
When you bring together so many people from different backgrounds, you get a lot of different viewpoints. You expect it; it's part of the college experience. You're also going to learn a lot (hopefully). You expect your professors and the administrators to know what they're talking about because they work at a place that's dedicated to higher learning.
But the reality isn't so simple. Unfortunately, in a place that is supposed to be a beacon of knowledge and free speech, it's remarkable how often misinformation and stifling of speech happens on college campuses.
The latest example comes from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in Golden, CO. The school built a new athletic facility, thanks to some donations from supporters of the athletic program. Donors were given the opportunity to sponsor a locker in the new football locker room. In exchange, they were given a personalized nameplate to be placed on the locker which they could inscribe with three lines of the text of their choosing. Initially, the University did not impose any restrictions on the text other than the length.
The enthusiastic donors included a variety of quotes on their nameplates, including these gems:
- “Give ‘Em Hell!”
- “OK Gentlemen, it’s time to gird your loins.”
- “Take your whiskey clear.”
But former football player and 2003 alumnus Michael Lucas' submission didn't get a pass. No, his submission wasn't too long, and it didn't include profanity or anything like that.
So what was wrong with Michael's submission?
Well, he wanted to include two Bible verse references, Colossians 3:23 and Micah 5:9, in his quote. That's right; he didn't even request the actual Bible verses, just the references.
If your memory isn't what it used to be, you're probably wondering what these verses say. Here they are in the NIV translation:
- Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
- Micah 5:9 - Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed.
Although the text of neither verse would be displayed, CSM officials objected because they said, after the fact, that nameplate quotes could not include the words “Lord,” “God,” or “Jesus,” or reference Bible verses that contain those words. They claimed that to allow them would be a violation of the First Amendment.
Um, problem. The First Amendment actually protects such speech. Furthermore, the school’s official policy prohibits “discrimination on the basis of…religion….,” and allowing anything and everything to be engraved on these nameplates except something that references God, is exactly that—discrimination.
To appease the school, Michael ended up using the text of Micah 5:9 on his nameplate. See below:
“Public colleges and universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas, especially in a forum like this. The school initially imposed no restrictions – or even guidelines – on the type of message a donor could include, and contrary to what the school is arguing, the First Amendment protects – not restricts – a simple reference to a Bible verse,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker. “It’s patently ridiculous to argue that a Bible reference that doesn’t include the text of the verse is somehow inappropriate simply because someone might look it up and see that ‘Lord’ is mentioned there.”
Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit against the school on Michael's behalf. Michael and ADF legal counsel Natalie Decker recently appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss the case.
Learn more about how Alliance Defending Freedom is fighting to ensure you have the right to express your views on campus here