The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a former student evangelist who was punished for trying to share his faith in July 2016 on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Georgia.
Support for this student’s lawsuit has come from an unlikely source — an atheist group called the American Humanist Association.
The lawsuit, filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom — a conservative law firm — on behalf of Chike Uzuegbunam, claims his constitutional rights were violated. The law firm is also representing a second GGC student, Joseph Bradford, who, after seeing how Uzuegbunam was treated, “decided not to speak on campus at all,” according to an ADF media release.
Uzuegbunam was stopped twice “from sharing his Christian faith with fellow students in public, outdoor areas” on GGC’s campus, the ADF says in a summary of his case posted on the law firm’s website.
“First, officials said to continue his conversations about his faith, he had to get advance permission to use one of two tiny speech zones that made up far less than 1% of the campus — the equivalent of a piece of paper on a football field — and were only open 10% of the week,” the summary reads.
Uzuegbunam followed those instructions, but “within minutes, two campus police officers approached Chike and demanded his ID card, which they took back to their patrol car while he waited in full view of other students. When they returned, the officers ordered him to stop and threatened him with discipline if he continued to speak about his faith,” the summary says.
“As a result, Chike was unable to speak about his faith anywhere on campus.”
The defendant in the case is former GGC president Stanley C. “Stas” Preczewski, and other school officials. (Preczewski retired from this position in 2019. There are no indications this lawsuit played a role in his decision.
In the video below, an ADF spokesman explains the events which led to this lawsuit.
A public college, he says, “silenced” Uzuegbunam “for talking in public on campus in the designated speech zone with a reservation in America.”
Someone had allegedly complained, telling officials he or she was disturbed.
“According to the college,” the narrator continues, “saying anything that disturbs someone’s ‘comfort’ is considered disorderly conduct.”
He explains that “in later court filings, the college wrongly insisted that sharing the Christian faith amounts to ‘fighting words,’ speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect because it tends to incite immediate violence.”
In 2017, the year after this ridiculous series of events took place, college administrators switched to a more accommodating policy regarding free religious speech.
The school argued that because GGC officials later relaxed their policy, the college should not be forced to pay a “penalty for their past actions,” and that “the complaint against them by Uzuegbunam and Bradford had become moot,” according to The Christian Post.
This is not just about Christianity, it’s about the Constitution.
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