A federal district judge concluded recently that government employees cannot avoid accountability for breaking constitutionally protected liberties following a March Supreme Court decision. Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom successfully defended Chike Uzuegbunam after he was barred from explaining his Christian beliefs on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College. The college is a public institution where Uzuegbunam was registered as a student.
Alliance Defending Freedom
“We need to ensure that the wrong done to our clients is righted,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at ADF and director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The Supreme Court saw the importance of addressing these legal violations on the merits, and now so has the district court. Hopefully, this will send a signal to college and university officials nationwide that students do not lose their constitutional rights at the campus gates and that anyone who ignores these priceless freedoms can be held to account.”
College administrators initially prohibited Chike from conversing about his beliefs in a public location on campus, instructing him instead to use one of the two small campus “speech zones.” However, after Chike obeyed their directives, campus police were called in and forced him to cease his actions in the free speech zone due to a complaint. The cops took his identification down and commanded him to cease speaking, threatening to penalize him if he decided to discuss his religion further.
Chike’s speech should be protected by the Constitution
Following this horrific incident, Chike, along with Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the school. Georgia Gwinnett contended that Chike’s speech should not be protected by the Constitution. However, they then modified its guideline during the lawsuit and claimed immunity from prosecution for breaching Chike’s constitutional liberties since they changed the policy. Two courts concurred with the school, but on March 8, 2021, the Supreme Court found 8-1 in Chike’s favor. This win comes about four years after Alliance Defending Freedom first sued the school. However, things didn’t end there for Chike. ADF is now suing again, claiming that the college would not accept any responsibility for its crimes, despite the fact that the Supreme Court found them guilty. In other words, they are directly ignoring a Supreme Court ruling.
Now, after years of litigation, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, determined that his new court case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, will proceed based on the merits.
“For almost five years, Georgia Gwinnett College officials have been trying to dodge accountability for their illegal actions in violating Chike’s First Amendment rights, even after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuked them. The district court rightly put a stop to that,” said ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham.
“Government officials shouldn’t get a free pass when they engage in misconduct; it leaves victims without recourse, undermines the nation’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights, and emboldens the government to engage in future violations. We are pleased that the court is allowing this lawsuit to proceed. It is long past time for Georgia Gwinnett College officials to face up to their unlawful actions.”
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– John Paluska, CNJ Staff