September 17, 2013 was Constitution Day. It was a day designated to honor and remember the US Constitution and what it stands for and the men who wrote it. A number of people celebrated the day by handing out copies of the US Constitution to friends, family, co-workers and strangers.
Robert Van Tuinen was one of those people who is patriotic and decided to hand out free copies of the Constitution. He happens to be a student at Modesto Community College in California and figured the campus would be a good place to hand out the copies of the Constitution to fellow students.
Tuinen stood in a grassy area near the student center passing out the copies of the Constitution, bothering no one when campus police approached him and told him to stop. They informed him that he needed to register with the student development office and then received their permission to hand out material. Tuinen tried to tell the officer that he was violating his right to free speech, but the officer insisted he go to the student center.
Tuinen said that his reason for handing out the copies of the Constitution was to help get people interested in forming a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but wonder if that is why school officials tried to stop and silence him.
A lawsuit has now been filed on behalf of Tuinen. The law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine is handling the lawsuit along with support of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). According to Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, school officials were caught on camera when they confronted Tuinen and told him to stop handing out the constitution. He explained that the school administrators:
“Were so unfamiliar with the basic principles of free speech that they prevented him from passing out the Constitution to his fellow students on Constitution Day.”
“Even in the face of national shock and outrage, the college has failed to reform its absurd ‘free speech zone.’ Now it will have to defend that policy in federal court.”
The speech free zone designated by the school administrators was a little cement area in front of the student center. After the legal action was taken, Christine Serrano, administrator at Modesto Community College announced:
“Students may distribute printed material on campus in areas generally available to students and the community as long as they do not disrupt the orderly operation of the college.”
Robert Shipley, Senior Vice President of FIRE commented about what happened to Tuinen, saying:
“Constitutional law can get pretty complicated at times. This is not one of those times. As FIRE has said from the beginning, every person at Modesto Junior College responsible for enforcing this policy should have known better.”
Young Americans for Liberty reported that at least two other colleges did the same thing as Modesto CC did to Tuinen. Students at College of Central Florida, Ocala were told that they had to get permission any time they wanted to approach other students, including handing out copies of the Constitution.
They also reported that students handing out copies of the Constitution on a sidewalk at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin were ushered off the school’s sidewalk and onto a public sidewalk. They were told that they also had to go through channels just to hand out copies of the Constitutions.
Alyssa Farah, Director of Communications for Young Americans for Liberty commented:
“Simply put, the mere concept of a ‘free speech zone’ is an affront to liberty and should have no place on college campuses.”
I wonder if school officials would have stopped illegal aliens or Muslims from handing anything out to other students on campus? Are the Young Americans for Liberty groups being intentionally targeted because they stand for liberty and freedom, which is diametrically opposed to the liberal socialist policies of so many schools and our current government?
Hopefully, the lawsuits will impress upon college officials around the nation that they cannot continue to trample on the constitutional rights of students, especially those that stand for the America that was.