BLOGA Big Win For Free Speech at Arizona Public Universities

By Alliance Defending Freedom Posted on: | May 20, 2016

On Tuesday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2615, a bill that practically eliminates speech zones on public university campuses in the state. This huge win for free speech highlights the power of the alliance and shows that when Alliance Defending Freedom and allies work together, we can effect widespread change and advocate for freedom on a massive stage.

ADF ally the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) led the charge on HB 2615. CAP identified a gaping deficiency in Arizona law: while the state had solid protections in place for free speech on college campuses, the law did not provide a way for students to enforce the law if their free speech rights were violated by a college. Here’s where the power of alliance becomes clear: CAP’s argument took on great urgency because of a case filed by ADF that demonstrated in real time the need for this kind of legislation.

ADF filed a lawsuit against Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) in Phoenix on behalf of Brittany Mirelez, a political science student who was prohibited from publicizing her chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) on campus and from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. 


PVCC requires students to obtain permission at least 48 hours in advance if they want to express themselves, and even then, they can only use their freedom of speech within the “free speech zone.”

When ADF heard about Brittany’s situation, senior counsel Tyson Langhofer sprang into action. “Colleges are supposed to be a place where ideas are freely shared,” he says. “A college short-circuits its own purpose when it places its own restrictive speech rules above the freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees to students and all Americans.” ADF filed a federal lawsuit on Brittany’s behalf, arguing that the college had unlawfully infringed on her right to free speech.

Meanwhile, CAP prepared to activate its allies in the legislature as HB 2615 was proposed, and Brittany’s case came at just the right time. The CAP resource page about HB 2615 points to Brittany’s case against PVCC as an example of why legislative action was so desperately needed in this area. CAP’s involvement, coupled with the ADF case, ensured that the bill in question had stalwart protections for both freedom of speech and students’ rights to defend that speech in court—both state and federal.

When the Arizona legislature began to consider another variation of the bill, HB 2548, Langhofer testified before the Arizona House Education Committee on the importance of making sure that existing free speech protections are enforced—so no one else finds themselves in Brittany’s situation. His testimony underscored the message of CAP that the freedom of speech of one's mind is paramount, especially in college, and that students have a right to express themselves, even if school officials don’t like it. So when the Arizona legislature voted on this bill, they’d heard the same story over and over from different sources: the freedom of speech in the First Amendment isn’t limited to a speech zone. And they voted to protect that freedom.

This is the power of alliance in action, and it’s a reminder that partnership is more than the sum of its parts. Together, we can accomplish things that are impossible without each other.

Learn more about CAP and other ADF Allies.

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