When Chike Uzuegbunam started college, God changed the trajectory of his life.
Chike grew up in a Christian home. He attended church. He believed God was real. But he didn’t understand how that impacted his life.
When Chike started attending Georgia Gwinnett College, he also started attending a campus Bible study. His fellow Bible study members came alongside him and walked through Scripture with him line by line.
Suddenly Chike understood the personal nature of the Gospel. That he, like every one of us, has sinned and falls short of the glory of God. That the consequence of that sin is death. But that God, being merciful, sent His Son Jesus to take our place and die for our sin. And after three days, Jesus rose again, overcoming sin and death. My sin has been paid for. Your sin has been paid for. Chike’s sin has been paid for. All that is required of us is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.
“The first time I realized that what God had done... He had done for me, that dramatically changed my perspective,” Chike said.
Chike couldn’t keep that Good News to himself.
But college officials were not so keen on Chike’s newfound passion to share his faith.
In the summer of 2016, Chike was handing out pamphlets and talking about his faith outside on campus when a campus official stopped him. The official told Chike that to exercise his free speech rights like this, he had to reserve one of the campus “speech zones.” At the time, Georgia Gwinnett had two speech zones that were only open 18 hours a week—10 percent of the time. And to say these zones were tiny would be an understatement: If campus were the size of a football field, these zones would have been the size of one single piece of paper.
Still, Chike did as he was told. He applied for permission, submitted his pamphlets for review, and reserved a time in one of the tiny speech zones.
But when Chike started sharing the Gospel in the speech zone during his designated time, he was stopped once again.
This time, two campus police officers approached him and demanded his ID card, which they took back to their patrol car while he waited in full view of the students he was trying to reach. When the officers returned, they ordered him to stop and threatened him with discipline if he continued to speak about his faith.
Chike knew he had to do something. So he reached out to Alliance Defending Freedom, and we filed a lawsuit against Georgia Gwinnett College on his behalf.
Eventually, in response to the lawsuit, Georgia Gwinnett officials adjusted their unconstitutional policies and used those changes to argue that they should be able to avoid any penalty for violating Chike’s free speech rights. Because of this and the fact that Chike later graduated, a court dismissed the case.
But college officials still violated Chike’s right to free speech, keeping him from sharing something of utmost importance to him. And they did this not once but twice! The government should not be able to violate someone’s rights and then walk away as if nothing happened.
The Court needs to make it clear that colleges cannot violate a student’s rights, then act like it doesn’t matter because they made some changes to their policies after getting sued.
These policies hurt real people. People like Chike. And when courts don’t step in and hold government officials accountable for trampling someone’s constitutional rights, it enables the government to violate someone else’s rights in the future.
Thankfully, this lawsuit has not dampened Chike’s passion for sharing the Gospel. In fact, he now partners with a church in New York City to share his faith with college students. Ultimately, Chike credits God with using his experience at Georgia Gwinnett to help prepare him for the road ahead, and he prays that God will continue to use his Supreme Court case to advance His Kingdom.
As Chike continues to share the Gospel with those around him, he knows what his rights are and what they are worth. But most importantly, he knows the Good News. And that’s worth everything.
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