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Non-Profit Appeals Dismissal of Free Speech Lawsuit Against UT Austin

Non-profit Speech First is appealing a federal court’s decision that dismissed a free speech censorship lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin, according to a report in The Daily Texan.

The organization has filed the case with the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals. Independent Women’s Forum, American Council of Trustees and Alumni have also supported Speech First in its appeal.

In June, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, while ruling in the favor of the university, had said that Speech First could not back up its allegations with enough evidence.

“Without any evidence of a credible threat of enforcement of the challenged policies … this court concludes that the students’ self-censorship is not based on a well-founded threat of punishment under the University policies,” the court ruled.

The suit was filed on behalf of three unidentified students in December alleging the school of creating an “investigatory and disciplinary apparatus” to muzzle speech that it considers “rude,” “biased,” or “uncivil.”

It also claimed that its members had stopped speaking on topics including immigration, identity politics, and abortion because they feared their speech could be anonymously reported as derogatory, hostile, and/or offensive to university authorities through the Campus Climate Response Team.

“College campuses should expand access to the marketplace of ideas, not stifle free speech,” Jennifer Braceras, the director of IWF’s Center for Law & Liberty, said in a statement.

“A desire to encourage civility, however laudable, can never justify the enactment of overbroad policies and Orwellian punitive systems that can be used to deter the expression of unpopular political opinions.”

Speech First has also filed a similar suit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for creating rules and regulations that restrain students from raising issues that are political and social in nature. It further alleges the University of prohibiting bias-motivated incidents by implementing a vague definition that is fully protected under the First Amendment.

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