Young Americans for Liberty at University of Alabama in Huntsville v. St. John IV
Description: A student group, Young Americans for Liberty, is challenging the University of Alabama in Huntsville's policies that require students to obtain a permit to speak on campus three business days in advance. The policies violate Alabama's Campus Free Speech Act, which requires public colleges and universities to respect the free speech rights of students on campus.
College students ask Alabama Supreme Court for freedom to speak outdoors, as guaranteed by state law
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty filed a notice of appeal Monday to the Alabama Supreme Court after a lower court dismissed a campus free-speech case brought by the group. The chapter filed the lawsuit in July 2021 to challenge the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s policies that require students to share their views in a small “speech zone” and to obtain a permit to speak on campus three business days in advance—both in violation of the Alabama Constitution’s free speech clause and state law.
Alabama’s Campus Free Speech Act requires public colleges and universities to respect the free speech rights of students on campus and explicitly prohibits speech zones, prior permission requirements, and other suppressive measures.
“University campuses should be encouraging free speech, not stifling it with burdensome and illegal rules like speech zones and requiring students to get a permit from college administrators before sharing their views,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Shutting down free speech on campus is unlawful, and we will continue fighting for the First Amendment rights of our clients and all students.”
“Alabama state law guarantees all students at public universities can freely speak outdoors on campus grounds. This is a critical measure to ensure that public universities once again become places where intellectual diversity flourishes and all students can engage in the marketplace of ideas,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We hope the Alabama Supreme Court will affirm the right of the students of Young Americans for Liberty to exercise their freedoms under state law.”
ADF attorneys explain in the lawsuit that the policies illegally prevent students from engaging in spontaneous expression and from promoting their events. This includes the student members of Young Americans for Liberty, who want to engage their peers in important policy debates about a variety of issues including gun control, federalism, and other topics, but are refraining from doing so for fear of violating the university’s suppressive speech policies. The policies require students to share their views in specified speech zones and request approval to speak days in advance. And because the permits are subject to the university’s approval, administrators can pick and choose which events and viewpoints are allowed on campus.
Brent Woodall, one of more than 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for the club in the case, Young Americans for Liberty at University of Alabama in Huntsville v. St. John IV.
- Pronunciation guide: Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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Michael Ross serves as legal counsel for the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he defends the First Amendment freedoms of college students and student organizations on university campuses. Ross earned his Juris Doctor in 2016 from Vanderbilt Law School, where he served as president of the Christian Legal Society and executive authorities editor for the Vanderbilt Transnational Law Journal. He obtained B.A. degrees in mathematics and religious studies from Vanderbilt University in 2010. Ross is a member of the bar in Tennessee.
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and director of its Center for Academic Freedom. Before joining ADF, Langhofer was a partner with Stinson Leonard Street LLP, where he worked as a commercial litigation attorney for 15 years and earned Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent® rating. Langhofer earned his Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1999. He obtained a B.A. in international business with a minor in economics from Wichita State University in 1996. A member of the bar in Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona, Langhofer is also admitted to practice in numerous federal district courts.