“To whom it may concern: Please update your university policies to comply with the Constitution of the United States.”
You would think that this doesn’t need to be said, but it’s a common request that Alliance Defending Freedom has made of several public colleges and universities over the years. Today, ADF filed a lawsuit, this time against Macomb Community College (MCC), asking the court to strike the college’s unconstitutional policy that forbids expressive activity on campus without permission.
Last time I checked, the First Amendment protects expressive activity.
Somewhere along the line, though, we seem to have forgotten that fact. And some student members of Turning Point USA (TPUSA)–a group that seeks to “identify, educate, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government” – witnessed this firsthand on MCC’s campus.
The TPUSA members were outside on the campus sidewalks asking students that walked by if they would like to sign a petition they were circulating. Soon after they began collecting names, however, campus police approached and told them that they needed to get permission in order to continue. The police officer informed them that in order to engage in that type of expression, they had to receive pre-approval from the Dean of Student and Community Services—whose office is located on a different campus altogether.
When the TPUSA members asked what rule prevented them from talking with other students about their petition, the officers answered that it was school policy. But does school policy at a public college override the Constitution?
Hint: The answer is no.
Yet, that hasn’t stopped MCC from attempting to prohibit “the carrying or displaying of signs or placards, leafleting, campaigning, marches, rallies, parades, demonstrations, protests, assemblies, speeches, circulation of petitions, and/or any public demonstration on the grounds” (in other words, any kind of public expression) without permission.
On top of that, the school gives unbridled discretion to the Dean to determine which activities to permit and which to exclude. That leaves the door open for viewpoint discrimination if the Dean opposes promotion of a certain point of view or message. And that’s not such a far-fetched possibility, as we’ve seen many other campus officials engage in similar discrimination.
That is why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of these students, defending these students’ foundational freedoms against the school’s problematic policy. We are thankful that these young people understand and are willing to stand up for their constitutional rights.
Hopefully, MCC officials will follow their lead.