We have a lot to be thankful for this year at Alliance Defending Freedom as our clients prevailed time and again in cases across the country. Here’s a recap of the top university victories in 2012:
Julea Ward – As Jeremy wrote recently, Julea Ward scored a big victory when she settled her case against Eastern Michigan University. Her case shows that the freedom to believe is still a critical component of our constitutional liberties. As Jeremy said, the appellate court ruling in her favor “will have a lasting impact on the right of college students to live out their lives according to the dictates of their faith. It clearly sets out that public universities ‘cannot compel students to alter or violate their belief systems . . . as the price for obtaining a degree,’ which is precisely what EMU was demanding Julea do.”
OSU Student Alliance – The Ninth Circuit handed down a resounding victory for independent student press on college campuses in OSU Student Alliance v. Ray. Public universities cannot relegate these papers to second-class status and expect to get away with it. This case will continue in 2013, so watch for updates.
Bronx Household of Faith – While not technically a university case, several Alliance Defending Freedom university lawyers are working on this case to protect equal access to government facilities. New York City has a no-worship policy that it is trying to use to block a church from renting its facilities after school hours, like all other community groups can. A federal district court struck down the policy in June, finding that it violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This case is more than a decade old and was recently argued to the federal appellate court in New York City, so stay tuned for what happens next.
Florida Christian College – Just last month, Florida Christian College settled its suit against the State of Florida over a tuition grant program. The state refused to allow FCC students to participate in the tuition grant because the state viewed FCC as “non-secular” and “too religious.” In other word, FCC students lost out on the tuition assistance, while everyone else did not. That is no longer the case.
Texas Aggie Conservatives – A group of conservative students at Texas A&M University thought it was unfair that they could not access student organization funding simply because they were part of a political group, but virtually all other student groups could access those funds. They sued A&M and got the university to remove its discriminatory ban on funding religious and political student groups.
Young Americans for Freedom – Another group of conservative students, this time in Florida, were restricted from distributing flyers on campus. They successfully settled their case this year, which enabled spontaneous student speech, removed speech zones on campus, and limited a college speech code.
Nationwide Letter Campaign – We also sent letters to over a hundred public universities from coast to coast detailing unconstitutional speech policies on their campuses. As of today, we received 27 favorable responses indicating that those universities revised their policies to protect student speech.
Aside from these critical wins, we were successful countless other times in situations you may never hear about. But those victories were just as critical for preserving the religious liberty of the individuals involved in them, and for that we are thankful.
We hope and pray that 2013 brings more victories for student speech on campus.