Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom understands and defends the rights of free speech on so many levels. We understand this freedom as not only the bedrock of our rights and freedoms in America, but also as an inalienable human right. Free speech comes in many forms, whether it is someone praying in public or having the right to express a religious viewpoint on a college campus, it is all protected by the First Amendment.
Here is a sampling of CLS’ work defending free speech:
CENTER SUPPORTS CLS STUDENTS IN IDAHO
The Center and ADF represented three Christian Legal Society law student members and a professor who received no-contact orders from the university because they expressed a biblical view of marriage. The CLS students and the professor, who is the chapter’s faculty advisor, filed suit against officials at the University of Idaho for violating their First Amendment rights. A hearing on the preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the orders was held in late May.
A federal court in Idaho granted a preliminary injunction in favor of students at the University of Idaho. The court ordered the university to rescind the no-contact orders while the case, Perlot v. Green, continues. In doing so, the court found that “the University overstepped when it issued the no-contact orders against” the students.
U.S. SUPREME COURT FINDS FOR COACH IN SCHOOL PRAYER CASE
On June 26, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a coach’s First Amendment right to pray on the field after football games in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. In a 6-3 opinion by Gorsuch and joined by Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Barrett, and in part by Kavanaugh, the Court held that the Bremerton School District violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses by firing Coach Joseph Kennedy for kneeling on the football field after a game for a personal silent prayer. Since being hired in 2008, Kennedy offered a personal prayer at midfield after each game. CLS previously filed an amicus brief in support of Coach Kennedy.
ENSURING MOTHER’S RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN RELIGIOUS FREE SPEECH IN PUBLIC
Mary Mason, who does religious outreach with her disabled daughter in Murphy, North Carolina, was told by town officials to stop because groups of two or more are not allowed to assemble without a permit. The Center sent a letter to the town council in 2020, explaining that its permit requirement was unconstitutional. The Town’s attorney responded and acknowledged that the Town would change its permitting requirements and not enforce them against Ms. Mason and her daughter.
CLS URGES SUPREME COURT TO SUPPORT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ON CAMPUS
On September 29, 2020, CLS’ Center for Law and Religious Freedom filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Chike Uzuegbunam, one of the petitioners in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski. In that case, Georgia Gwinnett College (“GCC”) twice required Uzuegbunam to stop evangelizing on campus – once while distributing religious pamphlets, because he was not in the “free speech zones” that comprised .0015% of the campus area, and again after he received a permit to speak in the free speech zones, because certain people complained about his evangelistic message. GCC threatened to charge Uzuegbunam with disorderly conduc as a result of the complaints. After Uzuegbunam filed suit, GCC changed its policies, and both the district court and Eleventh Circuit declared that GCC’s change in policy ended the case. Although Uzuegbunam had asked for nominal damages for GCC’s violations of his constitutional rights, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the award of nominal damages would have no practical effect and, therefore, no judicial relief was available.
In its brief, the Center argued that the award of nominal damages is an important form of judicial relief that provides a remedy to people whose rights have been violated. Nominal damages are a particularly important form of relief for college students, such as Uzuegbunam, whose rights are violated because they are likely to graduate in the years that it takes cases to wind their way through the court system. If relief for past violations (nominal damages) is tied to relief preventing future violations (injunctive and declaratory relief), then many students will be left with no ability to turn to the courts when their constitutional rights are violated.