Is our current American culture hostile toward free speech? You need look no further than Chike Uzuegbunam’s story to find the answer.
Chike was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College when he decided he wanted to share his Christian faith with fellow students on campus. He had become a Christian through a campus Bible study and felt drawn to share the hope he found in Christ with others on campus. “The first time I realized that what God had done... He had done for me, that dramatically changed my perspective,” Chike said.
In 2016, when Chike was passing out pamphlets and sharing his faith with his fellow college students in an outdoor area of campus, he was stopped. College officials told Chike that if he wanted to exercise his right to free speech and publicly share his faith, he had to reserve a time to do so within the campus “speech zones.” There were only two speech zones at Georgia Gwinnett, and they made up far less than 1 percent of the campus and are available for use during only 10 percent of the week.
In fact, if Georgia Gwinnet College were the size of a football field, its free speech zones would’ve amounted to the size of two pieces of paper.
Still, Chike followed these strict policies and reserved a time in one of the speech zones to talk with students about his faith.
But once again, Chike was stopped from exercising his right to speak freely. This time by two campus police officers who took his ID, told him that someone had complained, and said that if he did not stop speaking he could face discipline.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Chike’s behalf against Georgia Gwinnett for violating his rights. The college’s response was to argue that Chike’s peacefully sharing his faith should receive no constitutional protection.
Georgia Gwinnett later amended its unconstitutional policies and two federal courts agreed that the case should be dismissed and the college should not be held accountable for its actions. But a violation of someone’s constitutional rights shouldn’t be dismissed as no big deal—if the courts fail to vindicate Chike’s constitutional rights, this is a monumental loss for the whole country. After all, courts exist in large part to ensure that no one’s constitutional rights are violated. That’s why we’re taking this case to the Supreme Court.
When speech is censored there are real life consequences for real people. Unconstitutional speech policies affect every one of us. If government officials can censor Chike for peacefully handing out pamphlets and talking with interested students about his faith, what could each of us be censored for?
Shortly after Chike was silenced by college officials, another student chose not to share his faith because he didn’t want to risk the same punishment for doing so. That’s why it’s so important—not only for Chike but for the whole country—that the Supreme Court rule in favor of free speech.
It’s also why people from across the ideological spectrum and from numerous faith backgrounds are uniting behind Chike because they realize that our priceless freedoms are worth fighting for and that the government should not get a free pass for violating them.
Policies that violate the rights of one individual trample on the rights of each of us. And Georgia Gwinnett should be held accountable for violating Chike’s constitutional rights.
Join the Movement for Free Speech
That people who often disagree can come together to stand for Chike speaks volumes about the importance of free speech.
The movement to protect free speech from censorship and cancel culture begins with each of us coming together and realizing that we have much in common that unites us, including our vital freedom to speech.
But at a time when our civil discourse is so divisive, it’s crucial that we acknowledge that together. That’s why over 16,000 people have now signed the Philadelphia Statement and joined the movement to stand for a better future for our country. And you can join them today and help propel the movement forward.
Sign the Philadelphia Statement today and stand with us.
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