Skip to content

Iowa college limits free speech to one table

Alliance Defending Freedom files lawsuit over unconstitutional speech policy

DES MOINES, Iowa — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of a student prohibited from distributing fliers on campus that protested the use of college funds for a conference on sexuality. Des Moines Area Community College limits its approved student speech zone to a table in the student center and requires students to get permission to distribute fliers 10 school days in advance.

“Colleges should be the marketplace of ideas,” said Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Free speech should not be censored or limited to a ridiculously small area on campus, nor should college students need permission to hand out fliers. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students everywhere on campus, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

In March, college officials prohibited Jacob Dagel, a Christian student at Des Moines Area Community College, from distributing fliers containing religious and political messages in the open-air quad on campus--a classic free speech exercise. The fliers protested the allocation of college funds to subsidize student tickets to the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth. A campus security officer informed Dagel that students must use the speech zone and obtain a permit 10 school days prior to the activity.

The lawsuit explains that the college’s speech policy prohibits students from speaking spontaneously in reaction to news and current events on the public sidewalks and open spaces of the campus. According to the complaint, the Constitution “prohibits content and viewpoint discrimination in the public forums for student speech and expression on the campus of a public college.”

“Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule,” added Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “A permission slip should not be needed every time students wish to express their views on current events of the day. We hope that Des Moines Area Community College will revise its policy so that its students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

Timm W. Reid, one of more than 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in Dagel v. Des Moines Area Community College, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

  • 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.


# # # | Ref. 40530