When the United States Supreme Court hears a case early next year about a Georgia college student banned in 2016 from distributing Christian literature on campus, arguments for the student’s right to evangelize will include some unlikely proponents.
The American Humanist Association (AHA), an atheist group, filed an amicus brief Sept. 29 with the high court defending the student’s right to share his Christian faith on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights and sanctity of human life, filed the lawsuit on behalf of former Georgia Gwinnett College students Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford.
AHA noted in its brief in the case Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski that: “While the AHA and the Alliance Defending Freedom stand on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, they unite in their esteem for First Amendment liberties and their conviction that such rights are meaningless if they cannot be vindicated.”
Two other liberal organizations, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have also filed briefs supporting the Georgia college students’ rights to proselytize on campus.
As a student on the Lawrenceville, Georgia, college campus in 2016, Uzuegbunam reportedly was stopped by school officials on multiple occasions for passing out Christian literature while outdoors. After learning of Uzuegbunam’s treatment, Bradford “self-censored” his actions to avoid the same response from school officials, ADF asserts.
At the time, the college’s policy—which has since been amended – limited free speech to only 18 hours per week on two tiny areas that comprised less than 0.0015 % of the total campus area. The policy also defined disorderly conduct as any form of public speech that makes anyone uncomfortable.
In 2019, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2017 lower court ruling that the students’ complaint against the college was moot following the school’s free speech rules change that no longer punishes activities like those previously engaged by Uzuegbunam.
According to its website, ADF is expected to argue before the Supreme Court in early 2021 that “college officials should not be able to violate their students’ First Amendment rights and then simply change their policies after the fact to avoid the consequences.”
ADF contends further on its website: “The issue before the Court is a technical, but important, one: Can university officials stop a lawsuit and get a free pass by rescinding its unconstitutional policies?
“College officials must be held accountable for their actions and cannot evade responsibility by the maneuver they made in this case. When courts don’t step in and hold government officials accountable for trampling someone’s constitutional rights, it enables the government to violate someone else’s rights in the future.”