Free Speech Win: N.C. State Revises Speech Policy in Response to Legal Challenge

The policy prevented clubs from handing out flyers without getting a permit from the university.


Haruhide000 / Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina State University officials have changed the university's speech policy that previously forced student groups to get a permit from the school to pass out pamphlets, according to The News & Observer.

A student group called Grace Christian Life filed a federal lawsuit in April, arguing it was unfair for the university to require members to get permission before to handing out information about their organization. According to court documents, university staff told club representatives they were not allowed to engage with students without prior approval under N.C. State's Speech Permit Policy, a guideline issued in 1993.

The group maintained this policy was not only unconstitutional but also being unequally applied. The lawsuit noted that numerous student groups engaged in similar activities without receiving university permission.

The school eventually agreed to drop the policy. Students will no longer be required to reserve space if they are conducting "non-commercial solicitation." In other words, as long as a group is not selling a product, it can hand out information without approval from the administration.

The suit was settled as a result of these changes.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit law firm, represented Grace Christian Life. "Students of any religious, political, or ideological persuasion should be able to freely and peacefully speak with their fellow students about their views without interference from university officials who may prefer one view over another," Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for ADF, said in a statement. "NC State did the right thing in revising its policy to reflect this instead of continuing to defend its previous policy, which was not constitutionally defensible."

Under the agreement, the university has to pay more than $70,000 to cover the student group's legal expenses. But in a statement, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson noted that court costs would likely be much higher if the school opted to take the case to trial. Still, he denied that the university was guilty of abridging students' rights:

To be clear, NC State has never required students to get permits to engage and talk to other students – regardless of the subject matter…Individuals and groups have always been free to engage others in conversations about their faith on campus.

This is not the first time N.C. State has found itself in a battle over free speech. As Stephanie Keaveney mentioned in a piece for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, administrators last year encouraged students to paint over messages on the campus's "free expression tunnel" that they believed contained offensive language.

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  1. Free speech is so important to them that they maintain the right to regulate it “when appropriate”.

  2. As a fellow pamphleteer I heartily cheer this ruling. Of course, I would never have doubted it. America is exceptional and there’s no going back.

    1. “As a fellow pamphleteer ”

      How can I subscribe to your newsletter?

  3. A student group called Grace Christian Life filed a federal lawsuit in April,

    “Aww shit, a story about Christians defending Free Speech on campus… probably best to put the intern’s name on it.”

      1. I’ve been told there are no other kinds.

        1. They’re certainly much more homophobic than Muslims. It is known.

      2. loud, homophobic and racist Christians?

        You do realize that such creatures exist, right?

        1. So do smelly, rude poor people. That doesn’t mean I’d casually use that term to describe a group of people in an article if I wanted to be taken seriously.

          “….then the smelly, rude poor people proceeded to…”

          Some people are smelly, some people are rude, and some people are poor…what’s the problem?

          Probably best to keep those opinions to YouTube comments and Facebook posts, where spouting inane biased bullshit is practically a requirement.

          1. If they were there to demonstrate, and it was obvious that they were racist and homophobic, I’d say that’s a fair way to describe it. It’s not as if it was a tour group that happened to be that way. They were there to engage in political demonstrations.

            I don’t know who the group was, so maybe it wasn’t fair. But if they were there to make their views on race, sexuality and religion known, it’s absolutely the way to describe them.

    1. Question: if you’re sick of reading stupid drivel written by stupid cosmotarian assholes, and you identify every reason writer as a stupid cosmotarian asshole, why keep visiting this site?

      1. I’ve been wondering that a lot lately.

        1. It seems to have gone up at least tenfold over the past two weeks. With literally billions of sites to choose from, why waste time on something you hate? I don’t get it.

          1. They must either imagine that they can somehow reform Reason, or what Tonio said. And electoral politics always turns up the insanity.

            It’s not as if I agree with everything every Reason writer writes, or that I want to read 10 articles a day about Trump. But if I don’t like it, I can not read it, or make a comment to that effect without accusing them of engaging in some conspiracy to hide their true political motives.

            1. The best is when the writers are accused, not of being insufficiently libertarian, but of actually being closet progressives.

              Because there are only two possible political positions that exist: whatever I personally decide libertarianism is (somewhere to the right of Barry Goldwater), and Marxist. Anyone who isn’t the former, is assuredly the latter.

              1. And yet the same logic is not held to barely-libertarian republicans, for some reason.


                1. That had me thinking too, Jim. Watered down Republicans are good enough because you have to advance libertarianism in small bites but somewhat progressive journalists are bad because fuck you proggie!

              2. See, Jim gets it.

          2. “”why waste time on something you hate?””

            I’m not sure anyone “hates” reason.

            Its like disappointment with a family member. You bitch because you love them.

            1. Dennis, would you please pass the asparagus.

      2. Because some people wallow in their imagined oppression. They enjoy acting-out.

        1. Sitting here like uninvited company
          Wallowing in my own obscenities
          I share a cigarette with negativity
          Sitting here like wet ashes
          With Xs in my eyes and drawing flies?

      3. To shit all over every comment thread like an unhinged troll? I wonder if maybe some people are missing the salad days of Mary and Tulpa and John and MNG getting into 200+ comment long shit flinging contests so they’re trying to recreate it as best they can, but they’re not very good at trolling.

        “This site deserves a better class of troll…”

        1. Do you suppose White Indian finally ditched his computer and is now gamboling about the Great Plains?

          1. I thought WI was one of Mary’s sock puppets. At any rate, he disappeared after registration, I think.

      4. Actually I come for the commentariat. Over the years I have noticed the writers slipping down the progressive rabbit hole, one that seems to be accelerating lately, but the commentariat is rock solid and generally a cut above the writers. They are also a hell of a lot more intellectually honest. I don’t agree with everyone on everything but that is what makes it interesting.

        If the commentariat loses heart and disperses I will probably wander off to popehat and spiked-online.

        1. If the commentariat loses heart and disperses I will probably wander off to popehat and spiked-online.

          I gotta say, if I was aware that a comment like that could drive off half the commentariat, I wouldn’t have posted it. However, if after all the Postrel, Preet, Boxer, etc., not to mention all the Marys, Tonys, Tulpas, AmSocs, etc. deliberately trying to silence the forums and failing, a one-sentence comment not-inaccurately *suggesting* that an intern got an unfavorable assignment dropped on them is what tore it apart, good riddance.

      5. Why keep visiting this site?

        The commentariat.

        If they shut down the comment section, I would probably check in only occasionally.

        1. My question was to those who only comment on how shitty the article was and how much of an asshole the writer is.

          I come here for the comments as well. There are a couple writers I like (though less than there used to be) but I don’t agree with much of the subject matter.

      6. Also =

        I hear as much “whining about the bitching” as i do actual bitching.

        Hell, there are threads recently where the first 20 comments were people all gleefully moaning about “how the comments to come are going to shit all over this”;

        pretending you aren’t part of the problem you’re complaining about… is part of the problem you’re complaing about

        (*dwell on that, then snatch the pebble from my hand)

        My POV is = libertarianism is by definition a “vertical” concept which anyone along the political left-right horizontal can sincerely adhere. Expecting there to be no difference of opinion on things is retarded.

        This is partly why i’ve said i think the LP is a stupid vehicle for advancing libertarianism. I personally think its better to play ‘insurgent politics’ and pick policies you want to change and focus on those within any/both parties.

        Still – feel free go back to the endless yokel/cosmo tug-of-war and pretend you’re getting somewhere.

  4. administrators last year encouraged students to paint over messages on the campus’s “free expression tunnel” that they believed contained offensive language.

    “See?! We’re not anti-free speech fascist shitheads! We’ve got a whole tunnel where students are allowed to express themselves (as long as they don’t use any dirty words).” /NC State administration

    I bet the “free expression tunnel” is a small little tunnel on a corner of the campus that no one ever goes except to make out and have sex after getting drunk parties on Friday or Saturday nights commit rape.

    1. “Free expression tunnel” is one heck of a euphemism.

  5. That photo is a horrifying example of phallo-centric technocracy violating Mother Sky.

  6. That settling without admitting wrongdoing by government entities is infuriating bullshit. If you did nothing wrong then why are you backing down and giving away the taxpayers’ money? They should be required by law to admit wrongdoing if they settle.

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