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SCOTUS Defends First Amendment Rights

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2021 10:43 am

SCOTUS Defends First Amendment Rights

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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April 5, 2021 10:43 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes ADF’s Tyson Langhofer to discuss the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, where the nation’s highest court ruled that citizens can hold officials accountable for violations of their First Amendment rights, even if the violation is no longer taking place.

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Family policy matters in engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will fold better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters Tracy to vent Rick's thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters First Amendment rights are a hallmark of our nation's Constitution protecting the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech, among others. When these foundational freedoms are taken away or trampled citizens have the right to seek justice through our nation's courts. One recent US Supreme Court case addressed the question of whether government officials should be held accountable when they violate constitutionally protected freedoms, even if the violation is no longer taking place will one such case came before the nation's highest court at the beginning of this year. The case dealt with free speech rights on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College where school officials stop the student from sharing his faith in 2016. This courageous student sought justice for this violation of his First Amendment rights.

In early March of this year, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling will joining us today to discuss this case is Tyson Lang Hopper, senior counsel and director of the Center for academic freedom with alliance defending freedom, Tyson Lang Hopper. Welcome back to family policy matters extremity as we begin can you briefly remind us what our nations constitution says regarding First Amendment freedoms sure well the first commemorative rather short all read it. Then we'll talk a little bit about postproduction. It says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof that is notably free exercise clause or abridging the freedom of speech that's known as the free speech clause or of the press press clause or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble the right to assembly, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. So there's this whole panoply of rights that relate to our ability to express ourselves and for each of those rights is essentially the way that the court had been to this is through various case we better come up to the years and the overarching principle really what each one of those right is that the government can't tell individuals that they can't do certain things when they exercise their religion or when they engage in speech or when they assembled together or when they write something in the Pratt, they can't tell them you can't do that because we disagree with the viewpoint that you are expressing for the content of your speech and so what normally happens is you have government but doesn't like certain types of speech and they say hey were to enact a law that prohibits you from engaging that speech will order and allow others to engage in different type of speech. Thank you for putting that theory simply will that was a very important case recently. Could you give us some background on that. Sure, absolutely.

So we represent GK Boone who was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College back in 2016 and GK is a Christian and he loves sharing his faith. And so after class.

Sometimes he would just go off the sidewalk and in talking with other students that are interested about his Christian faith.

One day he was out on the sidewalk doing that and college official said. And you can't do that here you have to be in the speech zone while GK didn't know nothing but speech sounds. What he says will tell me about it.

He found out that the school had a policy which limited speech to two very small areas on campus that made up less than 1% of the campus, which if you actually took this is a picture if the campus was a football field, that that the two speech zones made up half the size of a piece of paper, but you get the well okay I'll do that. So he went and got a reservation to speak in the speech zone.

Several days later he went to the speech zone and began sharing estates with other students.

Several minutes later please officers came and stopped him from speaking because they said that some other students had complained and turns out the Georgia Gwinnett also had a policy which made it difficult really conduct for students. If other students believe that his speech caused them discomfort, and so they made him stop speaking and so after that GK contacted us and we filed a lawsuit challenging those two policy. Wow. Will we know the college campus is not the place were supposed to encounter uncomfortable ideas don't eat me on being completely high success.

So tell us more. So what happened with this case something very important.

Recently correct yet so what happened was that we filed suit the college initially argued that she gave speech was actually unprotected. There was a hint of fighting words, his sharing of the adoptable. They originally argued that it was unprotected speech of a quickly back down from that, thankfully, but later they amended both of their policies and then the court waited until GK graduated in and the court dismissed the case because they said that she can no longer had any damages, essentially because the school had changed the policy what the court did not do is recognize that the college official had violated GK's rights when they stopped him from speaking twice because of the content of their speech and so we appeal back to the 11th circuit in the 11th circuit affirmed the District Court and said that GK had no ability to hold those college officials accountable for the violation that they actually engaged in against GK, we appeal back to the Supreme Court and just last month the cheat.

The Supreme Court issued a decision in favor of GK, which held that GK did have the right to sue college officials even though he had suffered no monetary harm that the reason this is really important is because many times when people have their First Amendment rights violated.

They don't have any monetary harm if you're just speaking on a sidewalk and a police officer says you can't speak here. You may not have any monetary harm combat, but there's no doubt that you suffered harm you had.

What are your most core fundamental American rights violated and you should be a law hold that government official accountable for violating that right and that's what the Supreme Court held, so what would happen with this case going forward. Now we basically go back to the District Court because essentially what happened was the district court had dismissed the case prior to GK being able to prove his harm and so were back down the District Court and GK will now have the opportunity to demonstrate that the officials did actually violate his right when they told him he couldn't speak on a sidewalk on his own college without their permission and when they told him that they could shut down his speech because other students didn't like what he was saying so is this issue that you all there at ADF had been seeing more and more as on college and university campuses. Yet I think during this rise in capital culture over the last for five years. You are seeing a an increasing number of cases where unfortunately students and faculty are pressuring the schools into taking action against other students who they disagree with their speech and unfortunately many times that speech is conservative speech or its Christian religious speech little bit if you would expound a little bit on this concept of free speech because I think both sides can be guilty of trying to shut down speech that they find a senses. Where is the line that were supposed to draw on this, as far as what is free speech and what crosses into speech that is prohibited to divert a narrow area of speech that is actually unprotected speech in the spring court is basically held that unprotected speech would be fighting words and that words that that the normal person would essentially cause them to engage in violence it directed at them so that we directed at an individual and cause them to engage in violence. Another one would be a incitement to eminent violence.

So that's where a group. A crowd gathers and somebody says hey let's go burn down that building is not protected speech but not conveying idea there there engaging in lawless or or encouraging unlawful action that would be unprotected speech and then defamation or or slander. So when you say something untrue about somebody else that's unprotected, but that's essentially the narrow scope about their everything else.

Most of what you see today Noel called hate speech is protected speech. And the reason that it has to be so broad is because, as you indicated, we, as individuals we can to 1% for speech we disagree with on both sides that the normal human tendency is what the founders have done with the Supreme Court has done when they look at this place that we have to not allow the government to determine what speech is allowed and what speech is not allowed because we as humans will tend to center speech. We disagree with and not allow other speech that typically falls heavily more heavily on speakers that have a minority viewpoint. So many of these cancel culture types of issues. Don't ever rise to the level of going to court. Lebanese infractions happened just between people in small situations.

What we need to do as a nation and asking, why question here but when we need to do as a nation to begin to address what seems to be a lack of understanding among many people about what free speech actually means in our country. Things first of all we have to become more tolerant of other people up right to speak and tolerant means a lot of things today think that there are people, but we as Christians and conservatives have to recognize that the freedom of speech will allow other people on the other side to say things that we really disagree with that may violate our core beliefs.

But if there like to say that are not protected in our rights will not be as well.

We have to have that we have to recognize the right of other people to disagree. Secondly, we have to have courage we have to have the courage of our convictions and recognize that when we say unpopular things we may have people come against us. But if we believe that is grounded in truth and that it's important that society abide by that truth.

We need to be courageous enough to take some slings and arrows from people if they come out and if we do that, I believe that it will help everybody will get other people courage to do the same talk a little bit about that second point, because I'm sure you get lots of your more than your fair share of slings and arrows, what mental process do you go through so that you don't react badly to that in that situation, the process for me is I know that society is better when we live consistent with the reality that God created for us and not reality that truth is being suppressed and people are being harmed because that truth is being suppressed and so I want to speak the truth because I know it will be helpful to others and even if that means that I have to come under attack for that.

I believe that it's our duty as Christians to speak that truth so that others, we can help pull them out of the pit and help them avoid that harm. I think we need to put others above ourselves because speaking truth will help others live inconsistent with that reality. Let's talk a little bit about what this important US Supreme Court ruling will do for First Amendment rights going forward. What this does is it allows more people to be able to hold government officials accountable when they violate the rights and so before.

If a lawsuit may have been dismissed because the government officials argues well you didn't suffer any monetary harm and, therefore, your case should be dismissed. Now, a court has to allow that statute to go forward even though the plaintiff didn't suffer any monetary harm. Okay, sounds good. Any other similar cases that ADF is working on. So this issue really affects all of our cases because in almost all of our cases, we face a motion to dismiss and the government argues what you can't maintain this claim and and the spring court here has made it very clear that if you allege a government official is violate your rights, you can maintain that claim and and have the court rule on it. Even if you can't establish any monetary harm.

We just about at a time for this week. But before we go to Tyson Lang Hopper where can I listeners go to follow the work of alliance defending freedom and hear about other cases that you all are working on. You can go to our ADF and that have information about all kinds of cases that are better going on now, you can support our work in the client that there will representing Tyson Lang Hopper, senior counsel and director of the Center for academic freedom for alliance defending freedom. Thank you so much for being with us today on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program in plenitude and again next week to listen to the show online insulin more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across Carolina or website it NC family.award that's NC

Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family

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