Attorneys representing an N.C. State University Christian group
asked a federal court to halt the school's permit policy for non-commercial speech on campus during a hearing last week, and on Saturday the court complied.
Judge James C. Dever III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina signed an order
temporarily halting the speech permit policy, following a hearing where the plaintiffs successfully argued that the university's policy "facially violates the First Amendment."
"[The university] shall not impose restrictions on any forms of Non-Commercial Solicitation because of the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to the expression," the judge wrote.
Grace Christian Life, which is being represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom
, filed a lawsuit against N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson and the school in April, alleging that it was required to obtain a permit to speak with students in the student union while other groups did not have to.
“Because the only permit required for free speech on a public university campus is the First Amendment, we welcome the court’s decision to put a stop to N.C. State’s policy,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer. “N.C. State is acting inconsistently with its own calling as a marketplace of ideas with this unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Students of any political, religious, or ideological persuasion should be able to freely and peacefully speak with their fellow students about their views without interference from government officials who may prefer one view over another.”
The university denies selectively enforcing the speech permit policy and released the following statement in response to the court's decision:
N.C. State appreciates the court’s review of this matter, and we will follow the court’s preliminary ruling. The university remains an environment that fosters and enables the healthy and free exchange of ideas and viewpoints by our students and academic community. The ruling is not in response to a concern over the university’s actual application of the policy, which is content neutral.
The university has never required students to get permits to engage and talk to other students – regardless of the subject matter. The university’s administrative process for handling thousands of solicitation requests each year was never intended to prohibit student conversations and has never been applied in that manner.
The university will continue to administer a permitting process for commercial solicitation on campus, and we will facilitate all solicitations while managing legitimate time, place and manner issues.
Individuals can continue to engage others in conversations about their faith on campus. N.C. State not only protects but also defends the right of free speech for this group and all groups committed to the open exchange of ideas regardless of beliefs, viewpoints or messages.