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Violating students’ free speech costs University of Idaho $90K

ADF attorneys representing three Christian students, professor favorably settle federal lawsuit against University of Idaho officials
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MOSCOW, Idaho – Three Christian law students and their faculty advisor favorably settled their lawsuit against University of Idaho officials and are free to speak in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs. As part of the settlement, university officials permanently rescinded the no-contact orders they had issued against Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander, members of the Christian Legal Society chapter at the university, and Professor Richard Seamon, CLS’s faculty advisor, and paid $90,000.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the students and the faculty advisor filed the federal lawsuit in April after university officials violated the students’ First Amendment rights by punishing them because of the religious content and viewpoint of their speech.

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders, judges, and school administrators, so it’s imperative that university officials model the First Amendment freedoms they are supposed to be teaching their students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We’re pleased to settle this case favorably on behalf of Peter, Mark, Ryan, and Professor Seamon, and we hope that it will encourage all public universities across the country to support the constitutionally protected freedom of students and professors to share their deeply held beliefs on campus.”

“If we are to repair the current culture of political polarization, conversations among persons with differing viewpoints are essential,” said Christian Legal Society attorney Laura Nammo. “University officials’ censorship of such conversations needlessly exacerbates polarization and harms all students’ ability to learn from one another.” CLS attorneys Laura Nammo and Jim Davids served as co-counsel for the students and the professor.

The case began when university officials issued no-contact orders against the students and Seamon after a law student asked the Christian students why their student group requires its officers to agree with the orthodox Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Miller respectfully explained that the chapter requires this because it is the only view of marriage and sexuality affirmed in the Bible. Soon after, Perlot left a handwritten note for the law student, saying he would be happy to discuss further so that they could both be fully heard and better understand one another’s views.

A few days later, the law student and several others publicly denounced CLS’s religious beliefs at a panel with the American Bar Association. Alexander attended that meeting and explained his perception that the greatest amount of discrimination on campus was discrimination against CLS and its religious beliefs. When university officials issued the no-contact orders against the students three days later, they did not give the Christian students an opportunity to review the allegations against them or defend themselves.

In light of the favorable settlement in Perlot v. Green, ADF attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal of the case.

Matthew Williams, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is local counsel in the case on behalf of the students and professor.

  • Pronunciation guide: Perlot (Per-LOT’); Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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Tyson Langhofer
Tyson Langhofer
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Academic Freedom
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom.