STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing a Pennsylvania State University alumnus have reached a settlement with university officials, clearing the way for a personalized brick bearing a Scripture reference to be installed on the school’s campus among bricks with other personal messages. ADF filed suit Dec. 12 on behalf of 2001 Penn State graduate James Pursley after officials refused to place his brick on the school’s Alumni Walk.
“Christians shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs. The Constitution specifically protects religious expression,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker. “We are pleased that the school moved quickly and will allow Mr. Pursley’s Scripture reference to be displayed alongside the messages of other proud Penn State alumni.”
In 2007, Penn State officials invited alumni to purchase bricks and stone pavers for placement on the university’s new Alumni Walk, located on the University Park campus. On April 15, Pursley submitted an online order form for a brick costing $250. In his application, Pursley requested that his name, graduation year, and the words “Joshua 24:15” be included.
In August, Penn State officials rejected the application, stating that their policy did not permit “religious messages,” and that the reference “would not be in keeping with the intent of the walk.”
After ADF attorneys filed their lawsuit, Pursley v. Pennsylvania State University, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, university officials agreed to allow the Scripture reference to be displayed on Pursley’s brick. A copy of the complaint originally filed in the case is available here.
“Colleges and universities are supposed to represent the marketplace of ideas,” said Hacker. “It made no sense to say that Mr. Pursley’s chosen inscription didn’t have a place there. We are pleased that Penn State officials agree that his First Amendment rights should be respected and took such quick action to correct the problem. I know Mr. Pursley looks forward to putting this behind him and returning to the task of supporting the university he loves.”
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.