Preaching student sues Georgia college for restricting his free speech
The issue of freedom of speech in academia has been an increasingly hot button issue, especially for Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), a public college in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Chike Uzuegbunam, a current student, claims that he was prevented from preaching at one of the school’s two “free speech zones” despite having followed the school’s request procedure.
The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian nonprofit involved in lawsuits defending business owners’ rights to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples.
The lawsuit claims that Uzuegbunam "sought to share his Christian faith peacefully" on the campus but was told to get permission to speak at one of the two “speech zones” on campus. The speech zones are open 18 hours each week, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“The Sidewalk Speech Zone comprises approximately 11,718 square feet,” and occupies approximately 0.001 percent of the campus, the lawsuit notes.
Uzuegbunam was required to get permission to use one of the two tiny zones within three days prior to his planned demonstration. Uzuegbunam claimed to have done so but was still stopped from distributing pamphlets after about 20 minutes by campus security who claimed to have received “some calls from people complaining.”
The suit states that Uzuegbunam’s First Amendment protection to freedom of speech was violated as well as his Fourteenth Amendment guarantee to equal protection under law, because non-religious activities were not restricted in such a manner.
“The lack of criteria, factors, or standards in Defendants’ Speech Zone Policy, the related provisions of GGC’s Student Code of Conduct, and associated practices renders these policies and practices unconstitutionally vague and in violation of Plaintiff’s right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the lawsuit claims.
On Thursday, a GGC spokeswoman told the Lawrenceville Patch the college had not received any official notification of the lawsuit and would not comment on pending litigation.