As your history classes should have taught you, religious freedom was one of the primary reasons why the United States of America was founded. People were seeking a place where they could express and live out their faith without persecution or fear. And so, they came to America.
But it seems over the two hundred and some odd years since our founding, some sects of our culture have forgotten about those freedoms, despite they’re being spelled out in our national Constitution.
And that’s precisely the reason for a lawsuit soon to be addressed in the Supreme Court.
Chike Uzuegbunam was a Christian student at Georgia Gwinnett College in 2016 who, like most people of any religious belief, want to share their love of faith and hope with others. So he began “sharing his Christian faith with fellow students in public, outdoor areas” on campus, according to Alliance Defending Freedom. This conservative law firm has taken the young man’s case to court.
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But it wasn’t long before school officials approached him and told him that “to continue his conversations about his faith, he had to get advance permission to use of two tiny speech zones that made up far less than 1% of campus – the equivalent of a piece of paper on a football field – and were only open 10% of the week.”
So Uzuegbunam followed these guidelines to the letter. But upon his first time setting up in one of the zones during the permitted times, he was shut down again, within minutes of even arriving there. According to the lawsuit summary, “two campus police officers approached Chike and demanded his ID card, which they took back to their patrol car while he waited in full view of other students. When they returned, the officers ordered him to stop and threatened him with discipline if he continued to speak about his faith.”
Essentially, Chike was not allowed to speak about his religion anywhere or anytime while being on campus. And Chike was not the only one to suffer. Another student, Joshua Bradford, had planned on making similar plans to share his faith on campus, but after seeing how Uzuegbunam was treated, he “decided not to speak on campus at all.”
When the matter was brought to the school’s attention, the College claimed that while religious freedoms were most certainly covered under the First Amendment, they were also deemed to be “fighting words” that usually resulted in “immediate violence.”
However, the very next year, in 2017, the school changed its policies on free religious speech to allow more accommodation. And it is this reason that the school claims it should not be brought to court. According to them, they have fixed the problem and, therefore, shouldn’t have to pay a “penalty for their past actions.” They claim the “complaint against them by Uzuegbunam and Bradford had become moot.”
Now, I understand that, from now on, the college shouldn’t be penalized for such acts, as they are no longer partaking of them. However, actions and sins aren’t just wiped away because you decided you didn’t want to get in trouble for it.
That would be like telling Nazi leaders who killed millions of innocents that it was ok because, well, it’s in the past.
Shockingly though, both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with this unreasonable argument. Hence, it now sits before the Supreme Court.
Luckily for Uzuegbunam and Bradford, another organization has come to their defense.
Enter the American Humanist Association, an atheist group.
Yes, I said atheist.
The group noted that while Uzuegbunam and their members have vastly different beliefs, “they believe that Gwinnett owes damages for their past policy,” according to the Christian Post.
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt explained, “While the AHA and ADF may approach the Constitution from different angles, at the very least we agree that the First Amendment litigation and the associated rights are essential to our democracy.”
Speckhardt and others of his organization realize that even though they may disagree on what Chike was sharing, he has the right to do so anyway. And to say that he doesn’t is to also say that they don’t have that same right to share their beliefs.
It’s something the progressive left has seemingly forgotten in recent years, that the Constitution was written for all of us. Not just for a few, or one particular time, or place – all. And just because someone says something you don’t like or agree with doesn’t make it wrong for them to say it. And it certainly doesn’t make it a crime.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court is wise enough to note this importance as well.