DOJ Backs Challenge of Campus 'Free Speech' Zones

Says students have made case they violate First, 14th Amendments

The Justice Department has weighed in in support of a challenge by some college students to "free speech" zones established by Gwinnett College for speech that "disturbs the...comfort of persons."

That came in a statement of interest filed in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.

The lawsuit claims the zones violate the students' First Amendment speech rights. Students were required to get prior authorization for their disturbing speech and confine it to the "free speech zones" that, Justice pointed out, amounted to .00015% of the campus.

Related: FCC's Pai: Free Speech Is Under Siege

Justice said in the statement that it felt the plaintiffs had "adequately represented" that their First Amendment speech rights and 14th Amendment due process rights have been violated, and that the college's speech policies "were not content-neutral, established an impermissible heckler’s veto, and were not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions added: “A national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights is long overdue. Which is why, starting today, the Department of Justice will do its part in this struggle. We will enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression.”