HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty filed a lawsuit against the University of Alabama in Huntsville Tuesday to challenge the university’s policies that require students to obtain a permit to speak on campus three business days in advance. The policies violate Alabama’s FORUM Act, which requires public colleges and universities to respect the free speech rights of students on campus.
The policies illegally prevent students from engaging in spontaneous expression and from promoting their events. This includes the student members of Young Americans for Liberty, who want to engage their peers in important policy debates about a variety of policy issues including gun control, federalism, and other topics, but are refraining from doing so for fear of violating the university’s suppressive speech policies. The policies require students to request approval to speak days in advance, and because the permits are subject to the university’s approval, administrators can pick and choose which events and viewpoints are allowed on campus.
“Alabama law is clear: students don’t need a permit from college officials to speak on campus, but that’s exactly what the University of Alabama in Huntsville is doing—violating the law and shutting down speech on campus,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Public universities are the very places that should be encouraging free speech, not stifling it with burdensome and illegal rules.”
The lawsuit argues that the university’s policies directly violate the state’s FORUM Act, a law explicitly prohibiting prior permission requirements and other suppressive measures. The FORUM Act helps ensure that public universities once again become places where intellectual diversity flourishes and all students can engage in the marketplace of ideas.
“Today’s college students are our future legislators, judges, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the values they’re supposed to be teaching students, and that colleges and universities in Alabama respect state law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We are grateful that Gov. Ivey signed the FORUM Act into law, but now university officials must act consistently with that law to ensure that pro-liberty students—like all students—have the freedom to share their beliefs anywhere on campus, and without having to first ask college administrators for permission to speak. If university officials were respecting the law, this lawsuit would not be necessary.”
“Young Americans for Liberty exists to promote the principles of individual liberty, but the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s policies severely restrict our students’ ability to speak freely about these principles on campus,” said Young Americans for Liberty Director of Free Speech JP Kirby. “Students don’t need a permit to speak freely on a public campus. And they don’t give up their constitutionally protected freedoms when they step onto campus or hold a specific viewpoint.”
Brent Woodall, one of more than 3,700 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as lead counsel for the club in the case, Young Americans for Liberty at University of Alabama in Huntsville v. St. John IV, filed in the Alabama Circuit Court for the 23rd Judicial Circuit.
- Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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