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ADF having record year defending freedom at America’s universities

10 lawsuits in last 12 months, 400 letters since 2012, nation’s leading faculty free speech win involving jury trial in 2014
Published On: 10/18/2017

WASHINGTON – According to the most recent data compiled this week, Alliance Defending Freedom is having its most successful year to date in protecting freedom at America’s public universities and protecting private religious universities from the Obama administration. As part of its legal efforts to defend constitutionally protected freedoms from grammar school to graduate school, ADF has the largest and most experienced team of attorneys dedicated to university issues.


“Public universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. For them to do otherwise is to act contrary to their very reason for existence and is frequently unconstitutional as well,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker, who heads the ADF public university legal team. “Our efforts to protect freedom at public universities are motivated by one desire: to ensure that the marketplace of ideas that a university is supposed to be stays that way for everyone.”

ADF reports the following progress so far in the past year:

  • Filed 10 lawsuits that either protect the freedoms of public university students against unconstitutional policies or protect the religious freedom of private universities against the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate. Two of these lawsuits were against some of the largest university systems in the country: University of Michigan and University of Georgia.
  • Won the leading faculty free speech case involving a jury trial.
  • Filed friend-of-the-court briefs in significant university cases, including one in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of public employees to speak freely on matters of public concern outside of the workplace, such as when testifying in court proceedings.
  • Won a Virginia case that dismantled unconstitutional speech restrictions at 23 community colleges throughout the state.
  • Continued a nationwide effort begun in 2012 to contact universities and colleges that have unconstitutional policies. At present, ADF has written letters to nearly 400 schools and has succeeded in having bad policies changed for the benefit of more than 4.5 million students in 25 states.

The efforts of ADF at public universities are wide-ranging and include 134 legal victories and groundbreaking court decisions in the past 20 years that involve the following:


  • Speech codes, university rules that limit constitutionally protected speech.
  • Speech zones, unconstitutional rules that limit speech to tiny areas of campus.
  • Discriminatory distribution of funds obtained by mandatory fees assessed to all students. 
  • Abuse of “non-discrimination” policies to say that a student group must accept leaders that don’t even agree with the group’s beliefs.
  • Rules that force students to endorse views or encourage behavior they oppose in order to successfully complete an assignment, finish a program, or obtain a degree.
  • The assessment of security fees for student group events that university officials don’t like and deem “controversial.”
  • Retaliatory actions against faculty who don’t share a university’s favored orthodoxy. 

“Our efforts are structured so that public universities and colleges have the opportunity to respect the constitutionally protected freedoms of their students and faculty without costly litigation whenever possible,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We value public universities as places where ideas can be freely and respectfully exchanged without fear and intimidation. Sadly, many universities themselves have lost sight of this, but the students who go there and the faculty that serve there deserve better.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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