Back in 2016, one Georgia Gwinnett College student was shocked when school officials told him that he could only publicly share his faith in designated areas and that he needed advanced permission to do so.
“All I wanted to do was share the Gospel,” said Chike Uzuegbnam in a video produced by the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “I have to ask permission to exercise my first amendment rights,” he continued, “that’s not freedom of speech.”
Chike sued the college, with the case making it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorneys for Georgia Gwinnett College argued that since the school changed its policy and Chike had already graduated, the case was irrelevant; however, with an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court sided with Chike and his right to hold the school accountable.
“If a government official violates your rights and you didn’t suffer any monetary harm, you can still hold that government official viable,” said Tyson Langhofer, Director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, the organization representing Chike.
“Chike was really excited,” Langhofer said. “This has been a long battle for him, and he didn’t think it was going to take four years and go to the Supreme Court when we started this.”
The ruling was authored by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in part that Chike "experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him.”
The case now goes back to district court, where the actual freedom of speech violation will be litigated.
“We want a ruling from the court that a university cannot require students to obtain permission before speaking in an open area of campus and they cannot limit that speech to a small area of campus,” Langhofer explained.