In Palm Beach, College Officials Put Themselves above the Constitution
- By Alan Sears
- Posted Dec 6, 2010
- 5 Comments »
The word is out at Palm Beach State College that you can’t get the word out at Palm Beach State College … at least, the word would be out, if it wasn’t illegal to put it out.
If you found that confusing, you should try deciphering the speech code on this Florida campus.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against the college last month on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group increasingly and understandably frustrated by the school’s all-out ban on literature distribution.
Earlier this year, three members of YAF were prohibited from handing out information to interested students in the “free speech zones” of several PBSC campuses. College officials said the school’s speech policies give administrators the authority to deny liberties protected by the First Amendment – and they’re finding all kinds of inventive ways to flout that self-endowed authority, including:
- No distribution of materials without official permission at least 24 hours in advance (and the officials have complete discretion to decide what to permit).
- No free distribution of literature or materials – even to students who request them.
- No discussion with interested students about the information in the literature and materials.
- Numerous other requirements that make it nearly impossible for meetings and communication to take place outside of “approved channels.”
And so on. You can imagine what happened when YAF members tried to launch a campus “Get Out the Vote” campaign and distribute pertinent information before the mid-term elections. Again: these aren’t students cramming unwanted information into the hands of uninterested classmates. These are materials respectfully made available on request from the students themselves.
Clearly, these policies are a blatant violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Public colleges and universities should function as our nation’s marketplaces of ideas, not as prisons of censorship,” says American Liberties Institute’s Frederick H. Nelson of Orlando, Florida, one of more than 1,800 outstanding attorneys in the ADF alliance. “When college officials shut down their campuses to free speech and put burdensome restrictions on this First Amendment-protected liberty, even off-campus, they are assuming an authority that they simply don’t have.”
“Constitutional rights don’t simply end when you step on a public university or college campus,” says ADF Legal Counsel Casey Mattox. “College officials may want you to think so, but their policies don’t trump the U.S. Constitution, and we’ll continue to challenge these policies.”
Please be in prayer for this case, and for so many, many like it now underway all over the country, as students bravely stand for their First Amendment-protected liberties.
Author: Alan Sears