Colleges lifts speech restrictions after conservative lawsuit

Macomb Community College has agreed to drop controversial speech policies that were challenged by a lawsuit filed on behalf of a conservative student group on campus.

The legal battle with the college was triggered by an incident in April, during which police officers confronted three members of the school’s Turning Point USA chapter who were raising awareness about the benefits of fossil fuels on campus.

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The students were told that they could not speak to other students and that their presence alone could constitute trespassing since they never filed a formal request for their activity from the administration.

Months later, however, the college has agreed to a legal settlement with the TPUSA chapter, which was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have secured an agreement from officials at Macomb Community College to drop unconstitutional restrictions that banned students from engaging in expressive activity on campus unless they were granted a permit from the dean or vice president,” ADF said in a press release. “In practice, even approved speech was limited to a small zone comprising less than .001 percent of the college’s metro Detroit campus.”

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According to The Washington Post, the school announced that it was changing the policy on Wednesday, claiming to be a “a strong proponent of free speech” and the First Amendment.

“The new policy will no longer require students, in most cases, to seek prior approval for engaging in expressive activity on the college’s campuses,” Macomb Community College spokeswoman said in an email, as reported by The Post. “Macomb Community College is a strong proponent of free speech, committed to balancing the First Amendment rights of individuals with the safety and security of students, staff, and visitors.”

ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton praised the settlement on Wednesday, lauding the college for eliminating its “unconstitutional speech restrictions.”

“Students at a public college shouldn’t have to request permission to exercise their First Amendment freedoms,” he said in a statement. “We commend the college for acting quickly to suspend these unconstitutional speech restrictions and vote on policies that ensure every student will be able to speak freely and peacefully, regardless of their viewpoint, without fear of being punished.”

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