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Idaho law students file suit after university punishes them for their religious beliefs

ADF attorneys represent three students in free speech case against University of Idaho

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2022

MOSCOW, Idaho – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing three Christian law students filed suit Monday against University of Idaho officials for violating the students’ First Amendment rights by punishing them because of the religious content and viewpoint of their speech.

“Students of all religious and ideological stripes must be free to discuss and debate the important issues of our day, especially law students who are preparing for a career that requires civil dialogue among differing viewpoints,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Yet the University of Idaho is shutting down Peter, Mark, and Ryan because of their religious beliefs. This is illegal behavior from any government official, and we urge the university officials to right their discriminatory actions immediately.”

Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander are members of the Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of Idaho. When Perlot and Miller joined most of the other members of CLS at a “moment of community” gathering to condemn a discriminatory slur written at another campus, a law student approached them to ask why CLS requires its officers to affirm the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Miller respectfully explained that the chapter requires this because it is the only view of marriage and sexuality affirmed in the Bible.

Soon after, Perlot left a handwritten note for the student and told her that he would be happy to discuss this further so that they could both be fully heard and better understand one another’s views. A few days later, the student and several others publicly denounced CLS’s actions at a panel with the American Bar Association. Alexander attended that meeting and explained that the characterizations were inaccurate, that the biggest discrimination he had seen on campus was the discrimination against CLS and its religious beliefs, and that he was concerned about the state of religious freedom on campus.

Three days later, the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations issued Perlot, Miller, and Alexander no-contact orders against the student even though the CLS members did not receive notice that anyone had complained about them and were not given an opportunity to review the allegations against them or defend themselves.

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders, judges, and school administrators, so it’s imperative that university officials model the First Amendment freedoms they are supposed to be teaching their students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “University of Idaho administrators cannot punish students because they dislike or disagree with their deeply held beliefs—that is religious discrimination and, unfortunately, necessitates this lawsuit.”

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Perlot v. Green, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, Central Division. Local counsel in the case is Matthew Williams, one of more than 4,400 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network.

  • Pronunciation guide: Perlot (Per-LOT’); 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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ABOUT Michael Ross

Michael Ross serves as legal counsel for the Corporate Engagement Team with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he assists in developing and implementing successful legal solutions and corporate engagement strategies to neutralize mounting corporate hostility to people of faith and to encourage corporations to respect free speech, religious freedom, and life. Ross previously served on the Center for Academic Freedom Team, defending 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.

ABOUT Tyson Langhofer

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.