A Christian student who was twice prevented from sharing his faith on campus has been vindicated by the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 2016, Chike Uzuegbunam handed out Gospel leaflets and spoke to interested passers-by on campus while studying at Georgia Gwinnett College.
However, officials said he could not do this unless he had reserved time in a ‘speech zone’. Chike did this, but he was again told he could not continue to share his beliefs after he was accused of breaking the College’s student code of conduct because a student complained.
Chike took legal action alongside Joseph Bradford, another student who felt he had been intimidated into silence by the university’s decisions.
The College initially argued that Chike and Joseph’s First Amendment rights to freedom of religious expression had not been violated, but eventually dropped their arguments and changed their free speech policies.
The changes meant two courts refused to hear the case, but the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued that public institutions should not be permitted to violate students’ constitutional rights without consequences.
The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case earlier this year, and almost 5 years after the original incident occurred, the judges ruled in Chike’s favour 8-1.
In his judgment, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that it is “undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a complete violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him”.
a complete violation of his constitutional rights
ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said: “Groups representing diverse ideological viewpoints supported our clients because the threat to our constitutionally protected freedoms doesn’t stop with free speech rights or a college campus.
“When government officials engage in misconduct without consequences, it leaves victims without recourse, undermines the nation’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights, and emboldens the government to engage in future violations. We are pleased that the Supreme Court weighed in on the side of justice for those victims.”
Speaking before the hearing, Chike said: “It’s not just about me. Other students are also met with the same opposition that I was met with.
“When we live in a country where free speech is being silenced, it’s no longer free anymore. A win for me would be a win for all of us.”