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University sued for censoring conservative students

A student group is suing Monclair State University in New Jersey alleging a coordinated series of policies that censor conservative students.

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Mena Botros and the student group Young Americans for Liberty.

It was triggered by the university’s crackdown on students who held a public demonstration in which they dressed in orange jumpsuits and pretended to be criminals advocating “gun-free zones.”

“The purpose was to express their belief that laws creating gun-free zones only benefit criminals and harm law-abiding citizens,” ADF explained.

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A campus police officer forced them to stop.

The targets of the lawsuit include campus policies that require permission to speak in public at least two weeks in advance and grant student government authority to discriminate against groups based on viewpoint. The university also has a Bias Education Response Taskforce to suppress speech “that may make others uncomfortable,” ADF said.

ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross said a public university is “supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function if officials impose burdensome restraints on speech or if they can selectively enforce those restraints against disfavored groups.”

“Montclair State punishes student organizations that express unpopular views and allows officials to silence any students who express a viewpoint that officials deem offensive or uncomfortable to other students,” Ross said. “Policing peaceful student expression that the university doesn’t favor is blatantly unconstitutional and directly opposed to the mission of public universities to encourage and allow the discussion of ideas.”

A later statement given to WND by school officials, attributed to President Susan Cole, said officials there are committed to the “exchange of ideas” as well as having school community members “engage without disruption in all … activities.”

The statement said, “We have no reason to think that we have taken any action in violation of our principles or policies.”

ADF explained the background: “YAL at MSU is a non-partisan, student-led organization and was first officially registered as a student organization at the university in the fall of 2018. YAL’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize students to promote the principles of the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. While YAL student participants are required to pay student fees that fund speech and groups with which they disagree, the university classifies YAL in the lowest category of groups, which bars them from requesting any funding.”

ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said Montclair State’s policies regulating speech are unconstitutional.

“Because today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders and voters, universities should promote the First Amendment values that they are supposed to be teaching instead of telling an entire generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter,” he said.

It was last September when Botros and two other students dressed in jumpsuits and held up signs voicing support for gun-free zones “as pretend criminals,” ADF said.

Defendants include school officials or trustees Rose Cali, Mary Comito, Francis Cuss, George Hiltzik, Lawrence Inserra Jr., Douglas Kennedy, Ralph LaRossa, Jean Marc de Grandpre, John McGoldrick, William Mullen, Preston Pinkett III, Kent Sluyter, Nikita Williams Susan Cole, Karen Pennington and Margaree Coleman-Carter.


One Comment

  1. Methos Methos January 17, 2020

    Good. It’s past time for conservatives to fight back… probably too little too late.

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