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Got free speech at Ariz. colleges? Only if you’ve got money, two weeks

ADF letter says policy requiring visitors to pay fee, buy insurance, wait 14 days before engaging in free speech on campus is unconstitutional

PHOENIX — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys sent Maricopa Community Colleges a letter Wednesday exhorting officials to discontinue their enforcement of a policy that puts unconstitutional burdens on visitors if they wish to engage in free speech on the system’s campuses. ADF attorneys argue that charging fees, requiring an insurance payment, and demanding a two-week advance notice is unconstitutional.

The letter was prompted by a situation involving a private, local citizen who wanted to express his Christian beliefs on the campus of South Mountain Community College but could not because of the college system’s burdensome requirements.

“Christian visitors at public college campuses shouldn’t be deterred from expressing their beliefs because of cumbersome, unconstitutional policies,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “First Amendment-protected rights have never come with a price tag and a waiting period. The courts have routinely ruled policies like this one unconstitutional.”

At the beginning of the year, Ryan Arneson inquired of a school official at South Mountain Community College as to what he must do in order to share his faith by handing out literature, speaking with willing passers-by, and displaying a sign on open, outside areas on campus.

He was instructed to abide by the college’s solicitation policy even though he is only an individual wishing to engage in individual expression. The policy requires private individuals and groups alike to pay a minimum $50 fee, pay for insurance, and submit a request form and proof of insurance 14 days prior to visiting campus.

Chris Stovall of Phoenix, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Arneson. 

  • Pronunciation guide: Arneson (ARN’-uh-sin)

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.