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Published On: Wed, Mar 16th, 2016

College of DuPage ends threats against students handing out copies of Constitution, Bill of Rights

The College of DuPage has revised its speech policies after receiving a letter from Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a student threatened with arrest if he continued passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights on campus.

The exchange between a police officer and student Joseph Enders, captured on video, shows the officer telling Enders that, under campus policies, he needs a permit to offer the Constitution to passing students. The revised policies respect the constitutional freedoms of students by allowing them to pass out literature in outdoor areas of campus without prior permission, as the old policies required.

Photo of the US Constitution taken in the rotunda of the National Archives photo Mr. T in DC via Flickr

Photo of the US Constitution taken in the rotunda of the National Archives photo Mr. T in DC via Flickr

“It makes no sense for a public college to censor distribution of the very document that ensures free speech for all Americans,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “The college has done the right thing in revising its policies so that the school can once again function as the marketplace of ideas that an institution of higher education is supposed to be.”

Enders, a political science major, has been working to start a Turning Point USA chapter at the college. TPUSA is a non-partisan student organization dedicated to promoting the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government. He was standing on a campus sidewalk, handing out copies of the Constitution and asking fellow students if they would be interested in joining the group, when he was approached by the officer, who stated that his actions were against school policy and that he would have to go to the Student Life office to acquire a permit for his activities.

“The First Amendment does not tolerate this blatant suppression of speech,” ADF wrote in its letter to the college on behalf of Enders in October of last year. “The College’s…policy is unconstitutional because it requires prior permission before students are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights, and it grants unfettered discretion to College officials in determining whether to grant permission to speak. To its credit, it is my understanding that the Board indicated that it would be reviewing and revising the College’s policies to ensure that they no longer restrict the First Amendment rights of students on campus.”
In response to the ADF letter, the college invited Langhofer to attend a meeting of the Board of Governance “to make a presentation concerning free speech policies at public universities.”

“With these changes, the college has taken a big step towards truly being a marketplace of ideas, where students of all different backgrounds and beliefs will be free to communicate their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker. “We hope that other colleges will follow DuPage’s example and ensure that the constitutionally protected freedoms of their students are thoroughly protected.”

 

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