HUNTSVILLE, Ala (WHNT) – The Alabama Supreme Court unanimously ruled to allow a college campus free speech lawsuit to proceed despite a lower court’s dismissal of the case.
In July 2021, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) students with the group, ‘Young Americans for Liberty’ (YAL) were told by the university that they needed a permit to freely protest political issues.
UAH’s policy states that students are allowed to protest, but not until they get clearance at least three days in advance, and they must get university approval before doing so.
YAL is a “libertarian, classical liberal and conservative student activism organization,” according to their website. UAH student Joshua Greer filed a lawsuit in the Madison County Circuit Court on behalf of the organization against UAH and the UA system in response to the policy.
The group representing the students, Alliance Defending Freedom, says the policy violates the Campus Free Speech Act, which was signed by Governor Kay Ivey in 2019. It requires public universities to develop policies protecting free speech. However, attorneys say the school’s message does not align with that policy.
The Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in February, but the student group appealed the decision to the state’s highest court shortly thereafter.
News 19 spoke with Gregg Walters, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, who says that the higher courts ruling is a victory for all campus free speech rights.
“This law applies regardless of the size of the public university. From the smallest public university in Alabama to the University of Alabama system or Auburn University… students should have the same free speech rights and that’s what this act does,” Walters said. “Free speech is not free at all if you must get permission to do it and get permission where to speak.”
A similar campus free speech law has been passed in over a dozen states.
News 19 did reach out to UAH for comment but a representative said the school does not comment on pending litigation.