Free Speech at LSU

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In September the Daily Reveille, the LSU Student newspaper, ran a story by Jana King criticising the new speech policy on campus as a result of my lawsuit last year. I tried to respond with the following letter, but since they chose not to publish it, I figured I would do that here on my blog:

While I support Miss King’s right to Free Speech (despite the fact that she clearly doesn’t respect that of others), it would be irresponsible for me to ignore her September 2nd article on Free Speech, both as a law student and as the person responsible for the lawsuit resulting in the new speech code she so clearly despises.

In October of last year, lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom filed a law suit on my behalf, after I was told by school officials that I was not allowed to hand out small flyers while participating in a pro-life silent protest. I was not asking for the right to harass anyone, I was simply asking for my constitutionally guaranteed rights to be upheld by LSU.

You see, contrary to what Miss King seems to think- you ARE guaranteed your right to Free Speech on campus, even if what you have to say might offend someone else. In fact, in Tinker vs. Des Moines, the Supreme Court emphatically tells us that students do not “shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door.”

Nor do they support limiting our right to free speech on the basis of “offending others.” I doubt there is anyone on campus who would deny that the actions of the Westboro “Church” in protesting military funerals and even those of victims of school shootings and natural disasters are terrible and extremely offensive. Yet in 2011, the Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s right to free speech.

While there are cases that give schools the ability to place reasonable restrictions on speech to preserve the educational mission of the university, such as not allowing protesters to be disruptive inside the buildings and class rooms, limiting free speech to a small sidewalk is not a reasonable restriction.

LSU is approximately 28,000,000 square feet and that has a student population of nearly 30,000 students, yet under the former policy the free speech rights of students and students organizations were limited to an area of approximately 1,000 square feet, or a mere 0.0035% of campus. This is not reasonable. And LSU knew it, which is why they didn’t go to court to attempt to defend the old policy.

I am proud that my school recognized the problem with restricting free speech, and I am proud that they fixed it. I am proud to be the catalyst for that change. I am ashamed that people of my generation, like Miss King, do not seem to understand that millions of men and women have died over the history of our great nation to ensure that we have the right to speak freely about issues that are controversial.

The right to speak out against injustice has led to amazing societal advances, among them the end of slavery, the right of women to vote, and the end of segregation. If I believe, as I do, that abortion is an injustice on par with those listed, how can you tell me that I shouldn’t be allowed to speak up about it? I might be in the minority and my beliefs on the issue might be offensive to others, but at one point so were the beliefs of abolitionists, suffragettes, and desegregation supporters.