HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Attorneys for the group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in November in Madison County court on behalf of students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) who say their right to free speech was violated by the campus.
The attorneys say the language in the school’s free speech policy is broken and needs to be amended so that students can engage in spontaneous expression while promoting their events.
The campus policy says the 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.
According to the group, the policy violates the Campus Free Speech Act signed by Governor Kay Ivey in 2019, which requires public universities to develop policies protecting free speech. However, attorneys say the school’s message does not align with that policy.
“The universities policy doesn’t comply with the campus free speech act and that it limits free speech and limits the opportunity for debate,” said Brent Woodall, an attorney representing Alliance Defending Freedom, an American conservative Christian non-profit advocacy group.
Woodall refers to the Campus Free Speech Act, signed into legislation by Governor Ivey which states, “Students, administrators, faculty and staff are free to take positions on public controversies and to engage in protected, expressive, activity in areas of the campus, and to spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble, speak and distribute literature.”
Joshua Greer, the student who filed the lawsuit said, “illegal policies at the university of Alabama in Huntsville are preventing me and my fellow students from speaking about important cultural and political issues with peers.”
Woodall says the policy violates the university’s own “Use of Outdoor Areas of Campus” policy.
“In violation of the Campus Free Speech Act there are only certain areas set aside on the campus where students are told that they can engage in free speech activities,” Woodall stated. “But even there, there is a limitation on what they are supposed to do is that they are supposed to be able to speak on topics that came into the area, whether they are newsworthy or knowledgeable to the community at large within the past forty-eight hours.”
A spokesperson for UAH says the university does not comment on pending litigation but released a statement that says in part about free speech, “Our policies were implemented to preserve this important constitutional right.”