Congratulations to former ADF Clients (and current treasured friends) Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar for a glowing profile in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The article describes Ruth and Orit’s case this way:
The federal civil rights lawsuit, supported by the Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund, challenged Georgia Tech’s speech code, the use of a “free speech zone” and portions of the university’s “Safe Space” training manual that were considered unconstitutional.
In 2008 a federal court judge agreed that the training manual should be changed. The university had already eliminated part of its speech code. For the two women, it was a decisive victory.
“Decisive victory” is an understatement. Not only did Georgia Tech ultimately change four policies as a result of the lawsuit (speech code, speech zones, student fee distribution policy, and “Safe Space” training manual), it was sternly chastised by a federal judge, and eventually paid more than $200,000.00 in legal fees. Yet Ruth and Orit unfortunately paid a high price on campus for their defense of free speech:
As a result of the suit, Malhotra received death threats, had to leave her sorority house to protect the safety of other members, and spent her last two semesters with a police escort. Malhotra said she also underwent personal changes as a result of the experience. “Something I really value is authenticity. I wanted to be myself and be honest through this case and I grew to value that quality more in others,” she said.
Left unstated in this article was the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s own role in Ruth and Orit’s difficulties. The AJC announced Georgia Tech’s speech code repeal by declaring “Insults allowed at Tech,” a declaration that only contributed to a poisonous atmosphere on campus. Given the AJC’s shameful prior reporting, it’s nice to see it acknowledge that this particular story has a happy ending:
For their efforts, the two women became the youngest recipients of the Ronald Reagan Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2009.
In March, which marked the fourth anniversary of the lawsuit, they were invited back to Tech to host a First Amendment forum. “Orit and I have both been embraced by the larger conservative movement, locally and on a national level,” Malhotra said, ticking off the list of luminaries she has had the chance to meet, including Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
Finally, I absolutely have to highlight Ruth’s words of encouragement at the end of the article.
“So many people sit back and complain about things they don’t agree with, but they fail to show up for the fight,” she said. “The reason conservatives and Christians have lost so much ground in recent years is they haven’t taken a stand and been bold in our action. The result is we have lost one battle after another. When you do see us taking a bold stand and following through with action, we come out ahead and we do win the majority of the time.”
Well said, Ruth. It’s time for all of us to “cowboy up.”