I was sure this would come up again. I have Facebook friends who keep posting links to the ADF, Alliance Defending Freedom. Here’s something interesting:
My College Claims to be a Place Where Everyone Thrives. Then it Silenced Me. Here’s My Story
By Hannalee, North Carolina State University, Senior
My name is Hannalee, and I am a senior at North Carolina State University. Three years ago, I decided to pursue my education at NC State because it felt like home. The brick campus is huge, and there are over 34,000 students walking around daily, but I love being around people, and I was excited about the potluck of cultures and passions at NC State. Other colleges had excellent teaching programs, but they didn’t feel like family. I knew as soon as I walked onto campus at NC State, that this was the place I wanted to be.
NC State has over 600 organizations. And students are creating new ones each year. The college prides itself on being a place where everybody can thrive—something I loved about it right away.
I am a Christian, and I was looking for a club where I could be with like-minded classmates who were passionate about our faith and sharing it with others. Today, I have the privilege to serve as president of Grace Christian Life, a student group on campus whose mission is to give people a full picture of who Jesus Christ is. Our love for Jesus Christ inspires us to serve our classmates, our families, and our communities through activities such as Service Raleigh, providing food and clothing for the homeless, and assisting other local families in need. This year we branched out into two new ventures. We partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, an international poverty alleviation organization, and with the IronDog race in our area, which is a 5K to raise money for pet owners who cannot afford medical care for their animals. We had such a great time serving our community this year!
And, if they are interested, we also love sharing our faith with our fellow classmates. Spiritual conversations strike at the very heart of what it means to be human, and there is no better place to have those kinds of conversations than on a university campus—the ultimate marketplace of ideas where we, as learners, are seeking knowledge and truth to take with us once we leave.
One day, however, the university stopped members of our group and told us that we must apply for a permit before speaking. Because our thoughts and ideas might possibly offend someone, even though we never pushed them on anyone, NC State decided that we didn’t have the freedom to share what we believed with people who wanted to learn about it. So now, on this campus that claims to be a place where everyone thrives, we were silenced.
This policy at North Carolina State University is wrong. No college student needs a permit to talk to their classmates on campus. The only permit we need is the First Amendment of the Constitution. Speech isn’t free if you have to ask permission! So I, and Grace Christian Life, are doing something we never dreamed we’d do: we’re suing the college we love, because we don’t want to see that college destroy itself by stifling the very diversity and freedom that gives it life.
Kudos for Hannalee for standing up for the right to free speech. Not so much for forthrightness. While Hannalee’s remarks touch closely on actual circumstances, some liberties have been taken. Here is a description from another source:
Like many groups and clubs across college campuses nationwide, Grace Christian Life used the student union as a place to tell their peers about Grace Christian Life’s mission and to “invite them to attend Grace Christian Life events.”
In order to make students aware of their activities, Grace Christian Life needed to apply for a permit to set up a table and were told that “without a permit, they must stop approaching other students in the Talley Student Union to engage in religious discussions with them,” according to a Wednesday press release by ADF.
“The only permit required for free speech on a public university campus is the First Amendment,” Langhofer said in a statement, adding that the permits are “unconstitutional restrictions on the free speech of students.”
Despite what they see as the questionable legality of the university’s permit policy, Grace Christian Life members applied for and obtained a permit that allowed them to “speak with other students from behind the table or anywhere in the room.”
When the students stepped out from behind their designated table, a member of the Student Involvement Office made them return to their permitted area.
Controversy ensued when Student Involvement members failed to confront other student groups engaging in conversation and “handing out literature either without a permit or outside of the area reserved by their table permit.” This occurred “sometimes in full view of the same officials that stopped Grace Christian Life from doing the same,” according to ADF’s press release.
I will summarize: North Carolina State wants to control activities not related to actual class work. Students want to engage in extracurricular activities, many of them scholastic, philosophical, charitable in nature. The University says the Student Union is the proper place for this. The University has constructed and maintains the Student Union for this purpose. Costs are included in fees paid by students.
Furthermore: Grace Christian Life wants to recruit and engage students. The University says this must be done at a designated table in the Student Union. Grace Christian Life applied for the required permit and was provided a table. The University required that proselytizing be confined to the table.
Hannalee, and presumably others, noted that other groups had similar arrangements but were not confining their activities to their assigned tables. When Hannalee (we presume) engaged in activities beyond the confines of the Grace Christian Life table she was told to confine her activities to the table. Hannalee observed that no similar admonishment was issued to other groups.
Grace Christian Life sued the University.
This diverges significantly from what Hannalee states in her ADF post, “So now, on this campus that claims to be a place where everyone thrives, we were silenced.” For reasons requiring deep philosophical insight, telling students to do their proselytizing at their assigned table equates to silencing them. Would we be ever so silenced.
What seems critical is mention that others were not so restricted. “Controversy ensued when Student Involvement members failed to confront other student groups…” If the University does not, in fact, enforce its policy on other groups and reserves enforcement only for Grace Christian Life, then the claim filed by Grace Christian Life is righteous and absolute. Here is an excerpt from the ADF press release:
RALEIGH, N.C. – A federal court Saturday ordered a halt to North Carolina State University’s policy that requires a permit for nearly any kind of non-commercial student speech or communication anywhere on campus. The order came only two days after a hearing at which Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys asked the court to halt the policy after the university told members of a Christian student group that they needed a permit to speak with other students in the student union. The university did not require other student groups to obtain such permit.
Please read through the ADF release. I have read through it, and a difficulty that confronts me is that the ADF release does not name any of the groups getting a free ride from the University. Neither are any circumstances described in detail. This makes it difficult to follow up and to validate the claims of Grace Christian Life. You can appreciate obstacles to performing real Skeptical Analysis. Here is what a serious investigator will want to know:
- What are the names of the other groups mentioned?
- Were there occasional lapses of enforcement? Were there times when nobody was around to remind other groups to conform? Was there a systematic failure to enforce the rule?
- Were other Christian groups allowed to flout the rule?
- What form did violation of the rules by other groups take? Were these instances of a group member quitting his assignment and going to lunch, talking to other students along the way?
The names of the other groups and the circumstances will need to come out. The details will need to be described. The University has received the suit and plans to fight it. The case will go to lawyers and may come to trial. A judge has issued a temporary injunction barring the University from restricting student speech and related activities. A copy of that injunction is on line:
GRACE CHRISTIAN LIFE, a registered student organization at North Carolina State University, Plaintiff,
W. RANDOLPH WOODSON, Chancellor of North Carolina State University, in his official and individual capacities; WARWICK A. ARDEN, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, in his official and individual capacities; TJ WILLIS, Associate Director of University Student Centers, in his official and individual capacities; MIKE GIANCOLA, Associate Provost, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.
No. 5:16-CV-202-D.United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division.
June 4, 2016.
ORDER and PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
JAMES C. DEVER, III, Chief District Judge.
On April 26, 2016, plaintiff filed its verified complaint seeking injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief for the violation of its constitutional rights. See [D.E. 1]. On April 26, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction challenging defendants’ Non-Commercial Solicitation Policy contained within University REG 07.25.12 entitled “Solicitation.” See [D.E. 4]; see also [D.E. 26-4] Ex. 3 (copy of policy). On May 23, 2016, defendants responded in opposition. See [D.E. 25]. On May 31, 2016, plaintiff replied. See [D.E. 27]. On Thursday, June 2, 2016, the court held a hearing and considered the arguments of plaintiff and defendants concerning plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. On June 3, 2016, each side made a supplemental submission.
Having considered the entire record and governing law, the court hereby issues the following order:
1. For purposes of this order and preliminary injunction, the court adopts the factual allegations in paragraphs 1-129 of plaintiff’s verified complaint as its own findings of fact. See [D.E. 1] ¶¶ 1-129.
2. The court has considered plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction under the governing standard. See, e.g., Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council. Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery Cty., 722 F.3d 184, 188 (4th Cir. 2013) (en banc); Real Truth About Obama. Inc. v. FEC, 575 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2009),vacated on other grounds, 559 U.S. 1089 (2010), reissued in relevant part, 607 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). Plaintiff has established that (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim that North Carolina State University’s Non-Commercial Solicitation policy (including the permit requirement in the policy) facially violates the First Amendment; (2) it is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary relief; (3) the balance of the equities tips in plaintiff’s favor; and (4) a preliminary injunction is in the public interest. See Cox v. City of Charleston, 416 F.3d 281, 283-87 (4th Cir. 2005); see also Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 799-803 (1989); Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263, 267 n.5 (1981); Niemotko v. State of Md., 340 U.S. 268, 271-72 (1951); Bowman v. White, 444 F.3d 967, 972-73, 978-83 (8th Cir. 2006); Centro Tepeyac, 722 F.3d at 188-92; Knowles v. City of Waco, 462 F.3d 430, 436 (5th Cir. 2006); ACLU v. Mote, 423 F.3d 438, 444 (4th Cir. 2005).
3. Defendants are enjoined from requiring any student, student group, or off-campus guest sponsored by a student or student group to obtain a permit for Non-Commercial Solicitation as currently required by University REG 07.25.12 entitled “Solicitation” on the North Carolina State University campus, except that defendants may apply current University Housing Facilities restrictions on Non-Commercial Solicitation to (A) require non-residents to obtain a permit before distributing leaflets, brochures, or other written material in University Housing Facilities, and (B) prohibit door-to-door solicitation in University Housing Facilities.
Plus some more. That more includes the following:
4. This order shall not prohibit defendants from prohibiting any student, student group, or off-campus guest sponsored by a student or student group from engaging in Non-Commercial Solicitation on campus which (1) substantially disrupts University activities and functions; (2) violates any other applicable University policies; (3) obstructs building entrances, walkways, rights-of-way, or vehicular or pedestrian traffic on or adjacent to campus; or (4) interferes with educational activities, meetings, events, or ceremonies or with other essential processes of the University.
At point here is that the court recognizes the right and responsibility of the University to manage activities on campus in order to ensure proper operation. Specifically, the injunction against restraining student speech will not extend to allowing students to enter a classroom while lecture is in session and shout slogans or even sing loudly. Sanity will prevail.
Hannalee’s complaint brings to mind a matter from a few years back:
Also amazing is the near-professional employment of deceptive discourse practiced by a person of such youth. Marina Baer boldly faced the board and told them she could no longer trust them. For the sake of the camera she falsely stated that her father was arrested for breaking the 2-minute rule, when in fact he was arrested for disrupting the meeting and refusing to leave. Then, without waiting for anybody to challenge her, she turned and left. This kid is going places.
Comparison of Hannalee Alrutz to propagandist Marina Baer is, for the moment, speculative. No friend of the right wing Christian movement, I cast a skeptical eye on their bait and switch tactics. Is this another case of planting a cross on public land and crying persecution?