Apparently, Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) officials classify sharing the Gospel with your classmates as “disorderly conduct” and “fighting words.”
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit in December against Georgia Gwinnett College on behalf of one of its students, Chike Uzuegbunam. And that’s also why ADF filed a response to the college’s motion to dismiss the case.
Here’s the background: Chike, wanting to share the Gospel with his peers last July, was handing out pamphlets in a plaza on campus and talking with interested students. But campus officials informed him that he was not allowed to distribute materials or talk to other students about his beliefs unless he had reserved a time in the campus “speech zone.”
Just in case you’re not familiar with how a speech zone works, here’s an overview of GCC’s original policy, by the numbers:
2 Speech Zones – There are two “free speech zones” on GGC’s campus, which students must receive approval to use.
0.0015% of Campus – The two GGC speech zones make up 0.0015% of the 260-acre campus. How generous.
5 Days a Week – The GGC speech zones are only open on weekdays. Because free speech needs a break on the weekends.
18 Hours a Week – While the speech zones are open on weekdays, they’re not even open the full day. They’re really only open for free speech 18 hours a week, or 2-4 hours a day. This amounts to just 10% of the week.
(After this lawsuit was filed, GGC revised this policy, but the only thing that really changed is that the speech zones are now open a little longer, about 31% of the week. But this is still half the time that the Student Center is open, meaning students have twice as much time to play ping pong as to exercise their constitutional rights.)
Despite the ridiculousness of the speech zone policy, Chike followed the orders and reserved a time. But when he began preaching the Gospel, he was again approached by campus police and told to stop speaking. They had received complaints from other students, the officer explained.
Under the Student Code of Conduct, his peaceful speech was classified as “disorderly conduct,” defined as any speech “which disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).”
What’s even more bizarre is that GGC, in its motion to dismiss the case, said that Chike’s preaching of the Gospel “arguably rose to the level of ‘fighting words,’” a category of speech the First Amendment does not protect. If GGC officials can ban preaching the Gospel on campus by claiming that it amounts to “fighting words,” then government officials can do the same in other contexts, something that should concern us all.
Free speech is not free if it is limited to a tiny area on campus, requires a permit, and can be classified as “disorderly conduct” or “fighting words” at the whim of college officials. After all, the First Amendment guarantees a right to free speech, and GGC should be in the business of upholding that right, not silencing it.
That’s why ADF is standing with Chike—and why the court should not dismiss this case.
Universities Should Be a Place Where Ideas Are Freely Shared, Not Silenced
We are seeing increasing attacks against free speech on campuses across the country. ADF is defending students who have been arrested for handing out copies of the Constitution, denied funding to host a pro-life speaker, and barred from starting a pro-life group.
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