Monday, April 06, 2009

Community college censors student speech

The term censorship is often misapplied; it is the prior restraint of speech by the government. And this case is the real thing. From the Sound Politics public blog with permission: Spokane Falls Community College Claims Pro-life Speech Against Washington Law Not to be believed, but yes, SFCC "threatened Beth Sheeran and members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus to share information with other students because the message was 'discriminatory' and did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint." They were also told it was against Washington law. Read the whole story from the ADF who is representing the students in their law suit against SFCC. Here's the offending flyer the pro-life students wanted posted in a display case. What these pro-life students went through, not only with the school administration but with their faculty advisory is outrageous. Not only were they told that their "pro-life display was 'offensive' and 'discriminatory,' they were also required to also present the opposite point of view during the event. But here's another whopper, "Defendant McKenzie (Director of Student Funded Programs at the College) also told SFCF's (Spokane Falls Christian Fellowship) president that Washington is a "pro-choice" state, so SFCF could not use state money for "non-pro-choice" speech events. And it gets worse, Ms. Kurtz, a professor of English at the College and SFCF faculty advisor, told Ms. Sheeran and SFCF members that the pro-life event violated state law according to Wash. Admin. Code § 132Q-30-242. (Verified Complaint of Plaintiff: pp 10-11 (PDF)) She capped that information off with a lovely, "You don't want to be expelled, do you?" How did this woman get selected as faculty advisor to a pro-life group?! A preliminary hearing has been set for April 29 at 3:00 p.m. at the Federal District Courthouse in Spokane. Sheeran will have the opportunity to present her case at the hearing. Posted by 6p01053614339a970b If you have doubts the State should allow pro-life students to speak on their campus then read at least the introduction to the complaint filed in court. Here is how it begins:
1. The hallmark of a free society is the ability of people to express their ideas without government restraint. Nowhere is this freedom more necessary than on America’s public college campuses—the marketplace of ideas. However, Washington State Community College District 17, the Community Colleges of Spokane (the District), as well as Spokane Falls Community College (the College), systematically prohibits religious and political student speech that is outside the campus political mainstream. 2. This case arises from the efforts and policies of a public community college, through its officials, to restrict the expressive rights of its students and student organizations. The District, as a public institution of higher learning, is bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to refrain from infringing on the free speech rights of those it educates. Instead, the Defendants in this case have engaged in unlawful censorship. Through a series of unconstitutional policies and practices, they have attempted to suppress constitutionally protected expression on campus simply because that expression offended the sensitivities of some.
If you have doubts the actions are illegal and unconstitutional then read the whole brief.

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