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Student group asks court to halt NC State policy requiring permits for any, all speech

ADF attorney available to media following hearing Thursday
Published On: 10/18/2017

Attorney sound bite:  Tyson Langhofer

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer
WHAT: Available to media following hearing on motion for preliminary injunction in Grace Christian Life v. Woodson
WHEN: Thursday, June 2, immediately after hearing, which begins at 1 p.m. EDT
WHERE: Terry Sanford Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave., 7th floor, Courtroom 1, Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer will be available for media interviews Thursday following a hearing in federal court in the lawsuit of a Christian student group against North Carolina State University. ADF attorneys represent the student group, Grace Christian Life, in a challenge to the university’s policy that requires a permit for nearly any kind of student speech or communication anywhere on campus.

ADF-allied attorney Edmund LaCour of Bancroft PLLC, who is serving as co-counsel in the lawsuit, will argue before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in favor of a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the university from enforcing its policy while the lawsuit moves forward in court.

“The only permit required for free speech on a public university campus is the First Amendment, so we are asking the court to halt NC State’s policy while this case proceeds,” said Langhofer. “A university acts inconsistently with its own calling as a marketplace of ideas when it places unconstitutional restrictions on the free speech of students.”

The university only selectively enforces its permit policy and did so against Grace Christian Life, a registered student organization, when officials told members of the group that they needed a permit to speak with other students in the student union.

In September 2015, NC State officials informed students with the group that, without a permit, they must stop approaching other students in the Talley Student Union to engage in religious discussions with them or invite them to attend Grace Christian Life events.

The group obtained a permit to set up a table in the student union in January and were told at the time the permit was issued that they could speak with other students from behind the table or anywhere in the room; however, when they left the table on the permitted date, a member of the Student Involvement Office approached them and told them they must stay behind the table.

As the lawsuit explains, the university has not placed the same restriction on other groups. In fact, Grace Christian Life members observed and documented numerous other groups freely speaking with other students and handing out literature either without a permit or outside of the area reserved by their table permit—sometimes in full view of the same officials that stopped Grace Christian Life from doing the same.

The university regulates student oral, written, and graphic speech through University Regulation 07.25.12, a policy that requires a permit for any form of commercial or non-commercial speech, which the policy broadly defines as “any distribution of leaflets, brochures, or other written material, or oral speech to a passersby (sic)….” The policy specifies that any person “wishing to conduct any form of solicitation on University premises must have the written permission of the Student Involvement [Office] in advance.” Depending on the location of the proposed activity, the speaker may also have to obtain the permission of the administrator responsible for the facility or location where the activity is to be held.
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur), LaCour (Lah-COOR’)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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