In January, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a college student.
Over the past several years, increasingly fierce debates have taken place on college and university campuses. Can you guess which of the following campus scenes was the start of this upcoming Supreme Court case?
A. University of California, Berkeley
In 2017, a large crowd was protesting a Berkeley College Republicans event. A group of masked rioters soon joined the protestors, and things quickly escalated to violence and destruction— including fires, Molotov cocktails, fireworks aimed at police officers, and physical altercations. In response, campus officials canceled the speech.
B. California State University, Los Angeles
In 2016, Young America’s Foundation and CSULA Young Americans for Freedom hosted Ben Shapiro for a speech on campus. Hundreds of protestors , including many professors and faculty, flooded the university’s Student Union and physically blocked access to the theater in which Shapiro was scheduled to speak. CSULA President William Covino ordered campus police not to interfere with the protestors, and Shapiro spoke to a half empty theater.
C. Middlebury College
In 2017, the American Enterprise Institute’s student group at Middlebury College invited Charles Murray to speak on campus. During the event, protestors yelled and chanted over him , forcing him to film his speech in a different room while protestors screamed, banged on the walls, and even pulled a fire alarm . When Murray and Middlebury Professor Allison Stanger tried to leave campus, they were assaulted by an angry mob, which resulted in Stanger being hospitalized.
D. Binghamton University
In 2019, Binghamton University College Republicans and YAF invited conservative economist Dr. Art Laffer to speak on campus. When the College Republicans tried to promote this event, a mob of about 200 people broke down their table, stole and destroyed event flyers, yelled insults and obscenities, and physically assaulted one member. During the event itself, university police allowed a mob to shout down Dr. Laffer with a megaphone for nearly two minutes and then shut down the event instead of the disruptors.
E. Georgia Gwinnett College
Chike Uzuegbunam is passionate about sharing his faith with those around him. To Chike, this is the most loving thing that you can do for someone else—to share the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again so that we can have eternal life with Him. That’s why, in 2016, Chike decided to hand out religious literature and share the Gospel with his fellow students in a public outdoor area of campus. He did so peacefully and respectfully, engaging in conversation with those who stopped.
So, which of these incidents do you think will be at the center of January’s Supreme Court oral arguments?
It might surprise you to find out that the answer is: “E.”
To understand why, you need to hear the rest of the story.
Shortly after Chike started handing out literature and sharing the Gospel, college officials stopped him and told him he must reserve a “speech zone” in order to share his faith in public on campus. Chike did what they asked. But when he started to speak in the speech zone he had reserved, two campus police officers approached, took his student ID, and ordered him to stop speaking again. They said someone had complained.
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Chike’s behalf. The college claimed that Chike’s peaceful speech about his faith should get no constitutional protection. Then they changed their policy just enough to convince two courts to dismiss Chike’s case as if what happened to him did not matter. But government officials shouldn’t get a free pass when they take away priceless liberties. So in January, ADF attorneys will argue Chike’s before the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reaffirm the basic principle that government officials should be accountable when they violate constitutional rights.
It’s truly mind-boggling that Chike has had to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure that his rights are respected, while officials at other colleges and universities have allowed—and even encouraged—mobs to engage in vandalism and violence, conduct that the Constitution does not protect.
This is completely backwards.
College campuses are meant to be places where students can encounter and consider viewpoints different than their own. This teaches students to engage thoughtfully and respectfully with those who hold different perspectives while respecting everyone’s First Amendment rights.
But when college officials silence the viewpoints they don’t like (or allow student mobs to do so), students are learning the opposite. They are learning that the proper way to deal with opposing viewpoints is to shut them down—by any means necessary.
This is why Chike’s case is so important. We must hold colleges and universities accountable when they fail to protect their students’ constitutional rights.
If we don’t, that jeopardizes the First Amendment for us all.
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