SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit Monday against Yuba Community College District officials after they threatened a student with arrest and expulsion for sharing a Christian message along a Yuba College walkway. District policies limit student free speech activities to two hours per week and require students to obtain permission two weeks in advance.
"Christian students shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker. "Students do not need a permit to exercise their First Amendment rights on campus. When a student can be threatened with a citation and expulsion while peacefully sharing a Christian message, American colleges can no longer be considered a marketplace of ideas."
On Feb. 27, Yuba College student Ryan Dozier arrived on campus to attend class and briefly share a Christian message to fellow students, engaging them through tracts, a sign, and conversation. Dozier was approached by a campus police officer, who told him he needed a permit for such activity and that he would be arrested and face expulsion if he continued. The college allows "free speech" only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., with permission required two weeks in advance.
Less than three weeks later, Dozier received a certified letter from the college accusing him of assembling without a permit and violating school policy. The letter informed Dozier that his activity was the subject of a district police department crime report and that further violation of the directive and Student Code of Conduct would incur further discipline, including expulsion from college.
"A student peacefully exercising his First Amendment right to speak on campus is committing no crime," Hacker explained. "Yuba College is the one running afoul of the law by unlawfully censoring Christian student speech on campus."
In addition to the lawsuit, ADF attorneys are asking the court to suspend the problematic policies while the case moves forward in court. Dozier is also represented in the case by ADF-allied attorney Timothy M. Smith of McKinley & Smith in Sacramento.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends 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.