My VIP for this week is Chike Uzuegbunam, a college student is fighting for Freedom of Speech on campus. According to Thomas Catenacci, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today that Georgia Gwinnett College’s speech code policy violated Uzuegbunam’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and that the student could seek damages for the damages done by the policy. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion for the court with Chief Justice John Roberts the lone dissenting vote.
The decision by the Supreme Court reversed a decision made by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision said that Uzuegbunam did not have standing to sue the college even though the policy restricted his speech.
“The Supreme Court has rightly affirmed that government officials should be held accountable for the injuries they cause,” Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement Monday.
“When public officials violate constitutional rights, it causes serious harm to the victims.”
The college told Uzuegbunam in 2016 that he could use one of two “speech zones” to share his Christian faith on campus. The “speech zones” comprise less than one percent of the entire campus. He complied with the rule and was speaking in a reserved zone. However, campus police threatened to discipline him if he did not stop speaking.
“School officials violated [Uzuegbunam’s] constitutional rights when they stopped him twice from speaking in an open area of campus,” Tyson Langhofer, the director of ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in January.
“The only permit students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment.”
Seven justices “across the ideological spectrum” agreed that Uzuegbunam’s rights were violated and that he can sue the school for nominal damages. The violation must have been obvious to have so many justices vote in unison. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented because he considered the case mute after the college changed its policy. However, changing the policy does nothing to bring justice for Uzuegebunam, and seven justices said that he deserved justice.
This victory at the Supreme Court may be a wake-up call to other colleges and universities who seek to restrict the freedom of speech for their students on campus.