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NLF and ADF file lawsuit against Savannah State Univ. for silencing Christian ministry

Campus ministry accused of engaging in “harassment” and “hazing” by university officials

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Attorneys with the National Legal Foundation, with assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, filed suit Thursday in federal court against officials at Savannah State University who revoked official recognition of a campus ministry, Commissioned II Love, for allegedly engaging in “harassment” and “hazing.”

“It’s ridiculous that a public university would kick a ministry off campus simply for exercising its First Amendment right to free speech and to model Christ’s ministry among its members,” said ADF-allied attorney Joseph Martins of the National Legal Foundation. “The university is essentially saying that Christian groups are okay unless they actually practice Christianity.”

On April 10, university officials informed the group it that it was suspended from campus.  Suspension is the second highest sanction against a student group under the Savannah State University Code of Student Ethics.  Suspended groups are denied access to university benefits and facilities.  On Sept. 11, university officials applied the highest sanction, complete and formal expulsion from campus, alleging that the group violated its suspension when some of its members individually participated in a contemporary Christian music event during the weekend.

The university complained that the ministry had engaged in “harassment,” because its members shared their faith with other students, and “hazing,” because its leaders washed the feet, as Jesus did with his disciples, of new members during a worship service.  Foot washing is an ancient Christian custom reflecting Jesus’ service and love for his disciples.  The university took the position that foot washing was “an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of the student’s willingness to participate in such activity.”

“Had Jesus himself attended Savannah, his ministry would have been blocked by the university,” said Martins.  “Now these officials have cut off this Christian ministry’s ability to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by practicing prayer, foot washing, and evangelism.  Stopping such ridiculous censorship is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to do.”

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is defending religious freedom at America’s public universities.  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.