The U.S. Supreme Court gave a favorable decision to a former Georgia Gwinnett College student who filed a case against his school about four years ago. Officials from his then college used their authority to clamp down the student's right to preach in open-air even though it was done in a free speech zone.
In July last year, Atlanta News Now reported the silencing attempts of the Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) faculty on a junior who's just maximizing his freedom by sharing his faith in Lawrence, GA. Chike Uzuegbunam told Atlanta the first time he was reprimanded for "proselytizing."
Back in the summer of 2016, he was handing out Christian literature to fellow students when a school authority approached and told him to first secure a permit and to do his evangelism efforts in a "free zone."
Uzuegbunam honored the school's directive but was again forbidden. The college authorities said someone complained against Uzuegbunam's preaching. The then junior student was convinced that the school is just looking for an excuse to stop him from preaching.
"College officials didn't really care about where I was standing, they just didn't like what I was saying. So, they invoked these policies to silence me," he said.
In December 2016, Uzuegbunam filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Atlanta against the Georgia Gwinnett College for violating his right to free speech. He was joined by Joseph Bradford, another student who also wanted to preach in school grounds, Atlanta News reports.
They were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit law firm for religious freedom.
ADF Attorney John Bursch argued that the College has crossed the line of violating the students' First Amendment rights.
"Government officials must be held responsible for enacting and enforcing policies that trample students' constitutionally protected freedoms. If they get off scot-free, they or others can simply do it again," Bursch said.
The College amended their policies in 2017 and the lawsuit was dismissed by a federal court judge in 2018. ADF filed an appeal and the case was escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court in January, 2019.
"..It looks like Chike was wrong because his lawsuit was dismissed. The whole world should know his rights were violated," said Bursch.
The Supreme Court's Verdict
ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner presented Uzuegbunam's case before the Supreme Court and argued that government officials who ignore or dismiss a citizen's constitutional right will undermine the nation's commitment to champion the causes/plights of their people.
"Government officials shouldn't get a free pass for violating constitutional rights on campus or anywhere else. When officials engage in misconduct but face no consequences, it leaves victims without recourse, undermines the nation's commitment to protecting constitutional rights, and emboldens the government to engage in future violations."
"It is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a complete violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him," says Justice Clarence Thomas.
It was a great privilege to argue on behalf of Chike and @AllianceDefends. Today, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of justice for those whose rights have been violated by government officials. A win for Chike is a win for all Americans. https://t.co/VvQSFi0aGL
— Kristen Waggoner (@KWaggonerADF) March 8, 2021