The Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) reached a settlement on Tuesday in a lawsuit against the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) over the university’s speech policy, which it has now agreed to reverse.
The ADF sued UAH in 2021 on behalf of the UAH chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and UAH YAL president Joshua Greer. The lawsuit is in response to a UAH speech policy that limits most student speech to small "speech zones" and requires that students obtain permits to speak on campus three business days in advance.
According to the lawsuit, UAH's policy violated the Alabama Constitution and statutory law in the state. The lawsuit also claims that UAH's permit policy allows university administrators to pick and choose which views are allowed on campus.
After settling the lawsuit with the ADF and ACLL, UAH officials agree to eliminate the “speech zones” and stop requiring students to obtain a permit to speak on campus.
“College students have the freedom to share their beliefs anywhere on campus,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer. “They don’t need permission from college officials to speak, nor should they have to jump through burdensome and illegal hoops just to talk with their classmates outside. Alabama state law guarantees that all students at public universities can freely speak outdoors on campus grounds. We commend [UAH] for doing the right thing by amending its policy to respect students’ free speech rights.”
“Free speech should enjoy special protections at American universities,” ACLL president Matt Clark told 1819 News. “If the students who are tomorrow’s leaders cannot discuss ideas freely … as George Washington wanted, we can easily be led away like sheep to the slaughter. It was an honor for ACLL to work with ADF on this case, and we are grateful that UAH amended its policy to respect the rights of its students.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall successfully defended the law and its applicability to UAH, beginning at the trial court level and concluding with arguing the case to the Alabama Supreme Court. He promised to continue fighting for free speech on Alabama college campuses.
“The Alabama Campus Free Speech Act is alive and well, as evidenced by today’s settlement,” Marshall said. “Speech zones have no place on the campus of any public university in Alabama, and I am proud that we had the opportunity to defend this important Act. My Office will remain vigilant in ensuring that the protections offered by the Campus Free Speech Act are available to all students and employees of our universities.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect AG Steve Marshall's involvement in the case.
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