Kellogg claims it’s been ‘vilified’ over free-speech suit

Kellogg Community College claimed that it was “vilified” by a lawsuit filed against it after arresting three students for distributing pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.

As Campus Reform first reported, student Shelly Gregoire and two conservative activists, Nathan Berning (a former employee of Campus Reform’s parent organization, the Leadership Institute) and Isaac Edikauskas, spent the duration of an afternoon passing out copies of the Constitution to their peers and recruiting for a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter before they were accosted by administrators.

[RELATED: Campus cops: free speech needs ‘approval’ from college’]

Ultimately, all three were arrested and brought to jail after they refused to leave the premises, prompting the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to sue the school for violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

"Free speech is a right, not a privilege that can be censored by university officials on a public campus," ADF declared in a press release at the time. "If public universities silence free speech on campus, they deny their students opportunities for engagement and learning. If public universities stifle these learning opportunities on campus, they impair a student's ability to function in the real world."

Now, Kellogg has responded to the lawsuit with a briefing of its own, particularly opposing ADF’s request for a preliminary injunction on the school’s solicitation policy.

[RELATED: Rutgers: no such thing as ‘free’ speech]

“Our campus guests could have resolved their dispute with KCC in a matter of minutes on Sept. 20 and carried on their solicitation activities that same afternoon if they had simply filled out basic paperwork and moved out of the pedestrian walkway where students were trying to get to class,” Kellogg spokesman Eric Greene remarked in a press release, though ADF has argued that a policy of requiring “basic paperwork” for expressive activity is precisely what is objectionable.

“Because public colleges have the duty to protect and promote the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, we are asking the court to prevent Kellogg from enforcing its unconstitutional policy while our lawsuit proceeds,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham in a press release. “Like all public colleges, KCC is supposed to be ‘the marketplace of ideas,’ but instead, it arrested these club supporters for exercising their freedom of speech, and, ironically, for handing out copies of the very document—the Constitution—that protects what they were doing.”

[RELATED: Students threatened with arrest for handing out constitutions]

Kellogg, however, claims that it is being unfairly “vilified” by YAL and its supporters who are allegedly “spreading false information about why individuals were arrested.”

“These accusations couldn’t be further from the truth,” Greene continued. “The College takes seriously any allegation that an individual’s freedom of expression has been infringed and we have carefully reviewed our Solicitation Policy and concluded that we have been and continue to be in compliance with all applicable laws.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski