Free Speech and Religion on Campus

I learned today that a traveling evangelist has filed a complaint about requirements in order to use a campus free speech zone. The Religion Clause, a blog maintained by law professor emeritus Howard Friedman, reports that Benjamin Bloedorn objected to being required to apply for a permit to use the free speech zone, and to the campus reserving the right to reject such applications. You can read Friedman's summary, or you can read the complaint filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

I am unfamiliar with the details of the complaint, but given that the case involves my employer I can't help but be interested in it. Like many universities, Georgia Southern University has designated zones for free speech, and procedures for securing permission to use the zone. I confess that it seems ironic to me that campuses have "free speech zones" and that one must apply for a permit to speak freely. But such policies seem increasingly common, particularly in the last several years. (This is my impression only; I do not know of data documenting the prevalence of these types of policies.) Proponents of the policies cite the need to ensure public safety and conduct business in an orderly manner. Critics object to limits to the constitutional freedoms of expression. It will be very interesting to see how these conflicting values are resolved in the case.

1 comment:

Hellmut said...

I am not a lawyer but basically, the state can place time, place and manner restrictions on free speech. I would suspect that the permit deal may be more problematic.

As a matter of principle, universities should maximize free speech. The GSU restrictions may be legal but they are unwise because they undermine the basic mission of a university.