Free speech boxed in at LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Louisiana State University on behalf of a student restricted from distributing pro-life material beyond a 1,000 square-foot area on campus.
“Public colleges and universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “By limiting the distribution of material and free speech to less than one percent of the campus, Louisiana State University is violating the constitutionally protected freedoms of students who should be free to express themselves on the sidewalks and open spaces at the university.”
In October, a student decided she wanted to participate in the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity by distributing written materials. After asking where on campus she could hand out literature, the university informed her that she could only do so in “Free Speech Alley,” which is approximately 1,000 square feet of the university’s entire 650 acres.
According to LSU’s policy and practice, students and student organizations may only distribute printed materials in the tiny speech zone. In addition, they must register with the Office of Campus Life to ensure that others have not already reserved the limited spaces in the zone.
The suit, Candler v. Jenkins, explains that “limiting literature distribution to only a certain location on campus is inherently unconstitutional because it places a prior restraint on student speech.” The policy does “not leave open ample alternative channels of communications as the Constitution requires.” Moreover, the First Amendment “prohibits censorship of religious, pro-life expression,” the suit says.
“The university is supposed to be the marketplace of ideas,” added Sharp. “Louisiana State University’s policy of limiting free speech to ‘Free Speech Alley’ is a contradiction in terms. The university should promptly revise its policy so that students can enjoy their constitutionally protected freedoms as America’s founders intended.”
Larry Bossier, one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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