Young Americans for Liberty at University of Alabama v. The Trustees of the University of Alabama System
Description: University of Alabama policies require students to 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. The policies violate Alabama’s FORUM Act, which requires public colleges and universities to respect the free speech rights of students on campus.
University of Alabama sued for censoring speech, requiring permission days in advance
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty filed a lawsuit against the University of Alabama Friday to challenge the university’s policies that require students to obtain a permit to speak on campus five business days in advance. The policies violate Alabama’s FORUM Act, which requires public colleges and universities to respect the free speech rights of students on campus.
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 gun control, federalism, and a variety of other policy issues but are refraining from doing so for fear of violating these suppressive speech policies. The policies require students to 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.
“All students—regardless of viewpoint—have the freedom to share their beliefs and engage in civil debate on campus without first asking college administrators for permission to speak,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Universities are supposed to be the very places where students are free to explore diverse ideas and engage in civil and meaningful debate, but the University of Alabama is shutting down this debate with its burdensome speech policies.”
The lawsuit argues that the university’s policies directly violate the state’s FORUM Act, a law explicitly prohibiting prior permission requirements and other suppressive measures. The FORUM Act helps ensure that public universities once again become places where intellectual diversity flourishes and all students can engage in the marketplace of ideas.
“Today’s college students are our future legislators, judges, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the values they’re supposed to be teaching students, and that colleges and universities in Alabama respect state law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We are grateful that Gov. Ivey signed the FORUM Act into law, but now university officials must act consistently with that law to ensure that pro-liberty students—like all students—have the freedom to share their beliefs anywhere on campus, and without first asking college administrators for permission to speak. If university officials were respecting the law, this lawsuit would not be necessary.”
“Young Americans for Liberty exists to promote the principles of individual liberty, but the University of Alabama’s policies severely restrict our students’ ability to speak freely about these principles on campus,” said Young Americans for Liberty Director of Free Speech JP Kirby. “Students don’t need a permit to speak freely on a public campus. And they don’t give up their constitutionally protected freedoms when they step onto campus or hold a specific viewpoint.”
Brent Woodall, one of more than 3,700 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as lead counsel for the club in the case, Young Americans for Liberty at University of Alabama v. The Trustees of the University of Alabama System , filed in the Alabama Circuit Court for the 6th Judicial Circuit.
- 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 C. 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.