College Argues that Gospel Message is ‘Fighting Words’

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A Georgia college has filed a motion to dismiss a First Amendment lawsuit by claiming it removed a Christian student from campus because his discussion of the Gospel incited “hostility” and “fighting words.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is suing Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) for censoring college student Chike Uzuegbunam. 

Uzuegbunam was repeatedly stopped from discussing his Christian faith on campus, even after following the school’s strict guidelines.

The school required Uzuegbunam to reserve a space on the campus’ free-speech zone, an area that is only 0.0015% of the campus, and open only 18 hours a week, according to an ADF’s press statement

Even after reserving the spot and following procedures, school officials barred him from passing out pamphlets and discussing his faith. They said his speech “generated complaints” and constituted “disorderly conduct”.

ADF is suing GGC arguing that although the university claims “commitments to diversity” it in fact censors speech. 

“The First Amendment guarantees every student’s freedom of speech and religion,” ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham stated in a December press release. “Every public school—and especially a state college that is supposed to be the ‘marketplace of ideas’—has the duty to protect and promote those freedoms.”

ADF told Campus Reform, a conservative college newsgroup, that GGC filed a motion to dismiss the case claiming that the student’s “open-air speaking” rose “to the level of ‘fighting words.'” 

“Plaintiff exclaimed a divisive message directly to a group of ‘many’ individuals while standing on top of a stool, and, in doing so, actually caused a disturbance,” the motion read. The college further argued that the “plaintiff used contentious religious language that, when directed to a crowd, has a tendency to incite hostility.”

The school also cited two previous cases where street preachers incited a crowd by referring to people as “sinners.” 

The ADF said that the school’s policies violate free speech and the First Amendment.

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox said. 

“That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that GGC and many other colleges are communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter,” he added.
 

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