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Published On: Thu, Jul 28th, 2016

NC State modifies students’ solicitation policy policy to stop censoring free speech

As part of a settlement with a Christian student group, officials with North Carolina State University have revised the school’ssolicitation policy so that it no longer unconstitutionally censors the free speech of students. In light of the policy change, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the student group, Grace Christian Life, withdrew their lawsuitagainst the university on Tuesday.

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction that halted the university’s former policy, which required a permit for nearly any kind of non-commercial student speech or communication anywhere on campus.

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

“Students of any religious, political, or ideological persuasion should be able to freely and peacefully speak with their fellow students about their views without interference from university officials who may prefer one view over another. NC State did the right thing in revising its policy to reflect this instead of continuing to defend its previous policy, which was not constitutionally defensible,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.

ADF-allied attorney Edmund LaCour of Bancroft PLLC served as co-counsel in the lawsuit, Grace Christian Life v. Woodson, and argued before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in favor of the preliminary injunction that the court granted. The settlement essentially incorporates the terms of the injunction and requires the university to adopt a policy that protects the First Amendment freedom of all students to engage in speech throughout the campus without prior permission from the university.

The university only selectively enforced its permit policy and did so against Grace Christian Life, a registered student organization, when officials told members of the group that they needed a permit to speak with other students in the student union.

The settlement revises University Regulation 07.25.12, a solicitation policy that previously required a permit for any form of commercial or non-commercial speech. The policy no longer requires a permit for non-commercial speech. The settlement also specifies that NC State must pay $72,500 in attorneys’ fees to Grace Christian Life’s attorneys.

“University officials waste taxpayer dollars when they attempt to defend unconstitutional policies and when they force students to take a stand for their constitutionally protected freedoms,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker. “We hope the outcome of this lawsuit will serve as a deterrent to other universities who may be contemplating defending or implementing bad policies. All university policies should be consistent with both the First Amendment and the mission of those institutions to be a robust marketplace of ideas, which benefits everyone.”

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