A Georgia Gwinnett College student is challenging the school with a federal lawsuit on the grounds that it censored him from speaking out about his Christian faith.
Among a range of accusations in the 73-page lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Atlanta, Chike Uzuegbunam, a GGC student, and his attorneys, allege that during a period of several months, college police and other officials restricted his speech to “two tiny speech zones” that are open 18 hours per week.
“The First Amendment guarantees every student’s freedom of speech and religion. Every public school — and especially a state college that is supposed to be the ‘marketplace of ideas’ — has the duty to protect and promote those freedoms,” Attorney Travis Barham said in press release. “Students don’t check their constitutionally protected free speech at the campus gate. While touting commitments to ‘diversity’ and ‘open communications,’ Georgia Gwinnett College confines the speech of students to two ridiculously small speech zones and then censors the speech that occurs in those areas.”
GGC spokeswoman Sally Ramey said officials at GGC were not notified of the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, along with President Stas Preczewski, names several senior leaders on the campus. The suit looks to suspend the GGC policies that it maintains violates the first and 14th amendments, and discriminates by accommodating non-religious students seeking space for expression.
In July and August, the lawsuit outlines, GGC officials required him to ask for permission to speak three days in advance along with only speaking in the designated areas. GGC officials then ordered him to stop discussing his faith because they said it was “disorderly conduct.”
In July, the lawsuit claims that college officials stopped Uzuegbunam from talking with fellow students about Christianity and handing out religious literature in a plaza outside the college library. After Uzuegbunam complied, campus officials told him that GGC policies also prohibited him from speaking privately with students about his faith unless he provides three days advance notice and speaks only in the speech zones.
In August, Uzuegbunam followed these restrictions and spoke and distributed literature peacefully at a small patio area that is one of the speech zones. After 20 minutes, campus police arrived and told him to stop sharing his faith because of “some calls from people complaining.”