N.J. university violated 1st Amendment by shutting down gun rights demonstration, lawsuit alleges

nj | 1/16/2020 | Staff
shankayshankay (Posted by) Level 3
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Montclair State University officials violated the freedom of speech of a group of its students by shutting down a peaceful gun rights demonstration on campus last year, a lawsuit filed Wednesday claimed.

MSU sophomore Mena Botros, president of Young Americans for Liberty, and two fellow students on Sept. 10, 2019 donned orange jumpsuits and posed as criminals while holding signs mockingly supporting “gun-free zones," according to the lawsuit.

Signs - Gun - Threat - Criminals - Gun

Some of the signs stated "every civilian gun is a threat” and “criminals for gun free zones.”

Though the students were “peacefully expressing their ideas in a common outdoor area of campus,” a university police officer ordered them to stop, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the students.

Demonstrators - Suit - Sidewalk - Levels - University

Demonstrators, the suit stated, were on a sidewalk, speaking at normal levels and not otherwise interfering with university activities.

“[The officer] told the students that anyone who wants to speak on campus has to obtain permission at least two weeks in advance and that the dean’s office would assign them a time and place to speak,” the group said.

Requirement - Restraint - Students - Campus - School

The two-week requirement “imposes an unconstitutional prior restraint on all students throughout the entire campus,” and allows the school to deny a request or hold it indefinitely for any reason, according to the lawsuit. There are no “objective guidelines” for the policy.

“A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function if officials impose burdensome restraints on speech or if they can selectively enforce those restraints against disfavored groups,” Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Michael Ross said in a statement Thursday.

Lawsuit - Challenges - University - Policies - Student

The lawsuit further challenges two university policies dealing with student groups and speech. In one policy, the MSU student government association has "complete discretion” to rank student groups into classes, which allow for special treatment on campus that includes access to funds...
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