The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian group with a campus chapter at the University of Alabama, has filed a lawsuit against the school’s administration due to a rule that, they allege, infringes upon students’ rights to free speech.
The university has a permit to speak rule, which requires students to receive official approval five business days before they engage in expressive activities on campus.
“This prior approval requirement directly violates Alabama Act 2019-396, which guarantees that every student at a public university can ‘spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble, speak, and distribute literature in the common areas of campus,’” ADF wrote in their complaint.
Limiting Perspectives on Campus?
Michael Ross, a lawyer for the group, argued that the permit to speak rule goes against the very essence of what universities stand for.
“Universities are supposed to be the very places where students are free to explore diverse ideas and engage in civil and meaningful debate, but the University of Alabama is shutting down this debate with its burdensome speech policies,” he explained in a statement released by the ADF.
The Arizona-based organization believes that this rule can easily be abused to control which perspectives and beliefs are allowed on campus.
Ambiguous Policies on Free Speech
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to assessing freedom of speech at colleges and universities across the country, gave the University of Alabama a yellow-light rating after it was found that it had “at least one ambiguous policy that too easily discourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.”
The university also scored 38 out of 100 for self-expression, 51.6 for tolerance, 59.2 for openness, and 60.6 for administrative support. Overall, it held a score of 51.3.