WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear a case filed on behalf of two former Georgia Gwinnett College students who said their freedom to express their religion was denied by the Lawrenceville-based school.
Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the case after they said Georgia Gwinnett College's speech policies forbade any form of expression "which disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s).”
According to ADF, free speech on the campus was restricted to two tiny speech zones that made up less than 0.0015 percent of the campus and were only open for 18 hours per week.
Attorneys for ADF said that school officials used the policies to censor student Chike Uzuegbunam, from speaking about his Christian faith.
The school changed its policies after they were challenged in court, according to ADF, but two federal courts declined to address whether college officials had violated the students' freedoms.
"Government officials must be held responsible for enacting and enforcing policies that trample students’ constitutionally protected freedoms," said John Bursch, ADF's senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy.
According to the ADF, Uzuegbunam attempted to speak with other students on the GGC campus about his faith in 2016. He was stopped by campus officials, because he had not reserved one of the two spots designated for free expression on campus.
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When he later reserved a space, he was stopped again, this time because of an outside complaint, the ADF said.
They said that a college policy indicated that a student could be found guilty of disorderly conduct for engaging in public speech that makes others uncomfortable.
The ADF said that Uzuegbunam stopped speaking and a second student, Joseph Bradford, "self-censored" after seeing how Uzuegbunam had been treated by school officials.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case during the upcoming term, which begins the first week of October 2020.
After hearing the case, a decision, most likely, would not be handed down by the high court justices until some point in early-to-mid 2021.
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