Conservative Christian group sues University of Alabama over free speech on campus

Published 10:39 am Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A conservative Christian group has filed suit against the University of Alabama, challenging rules that require students to obtain a permit to speak on campus days in advance.

Filed by the campus chapter of Alliance Defending Freedom and two student members in state court on Friday, the civil lawsuit claims the rule violates a state law which requires public college and universities to respect students’ rights to free speech.

A campus rule requires students to request permission to speak on campus at least five days in advance, according to the complaint. The requirement prevents members from engaging fellow students on important topics including gun control and federalism, said a statement from the organization.

“Universities are supposed to be the very places where students are free to explore diverse ideas and engage in civil and meaningful debate, but the University of Alabama is shutting down this debate with its burdensome speech policies,” said Michael Ross, a lawyer for the group.
The school hadn’t responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday, court records show, and university spokeswoman Deidre Stalnaker said officials would not comment on a pending lawsuit. Alabama “remains committed to freedom of speech and expression for members of its campus community.” she said.

University administrators can use the rule to “pick and choose” which viewpoints and events are allowed on campus, said Alliance Defending Freedom, which based in Arizona and says it has chapters on 500 U.S. campuses.