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When Free Speech Becomes “Disorderly Conduct”: ADF Sues GA Gwinnett College

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 17, 2017

This past year has been a rough one for free speech on public university campuses.

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed lawsuits in California, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan against universities that are favoring certain viewpoints over others and silencing free speech on campus. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

On Monday, ADF filed suit against Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) on behalf of one of its students, Chike Uzuegbunam.

Chike is passionate about sharing the Gospel with his peers on campus. So, in July, he stood outside the library handing out religious literature and talking one-on-one with interested students. Within a short time, school officials approached him and told him that he could not distribute materials or talk to other students about his beliefs unless he had reserved a time in the campus “speech zone.”

Now, to say that GGC’s speech zones are tiny would be an understatement. Combined, the two separate areas make up about 0.0015 percent of campus. If that’s not bad enough, they are only open for student use 18 hours during the week—between two to four hours per day—and closed on the weekends.

On top of that, when Chike reserved a time in the speech zone to share the Gospel, a campus police officer told him to stop speaking publicly because people had complained. The officer even went so far as to say that these complaints converted Chike’s peaceful public speaking into “disorderly conduct.” Why did he say this? Well, because GGC’s speech code, a part of its Student Code of Conduct, defines “disorderly conduct” as any expression “which disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).”

This takes “safe spaces” to a whole new level – a campus-wide level.

Here’s the kicker (just in case you aren’t already astonished): Georgia Gwinnett College claims to be a place that encourages free discourse and debate on campus.

But is it really free discourse and debate when students can only speak in a tiny percentage of campus, have to receive a permit to speak there, and can only say things that do not make anyone uncomfortable? 

 

Universities Should Be a Place Where Ideas Are Freely Shared, Not Silenced

 

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.