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ICC Note: In 2016, a Christian student named Chike Uzuegbunam was told by his college, Georgia Gwinnett College, that he was only permitted to preach within one of the campus’ few speech zones, along with holding a permit to do so. However, even while complying with the regulations, college officials told him that he must stop preaching because he was disturbing the peace. In response, the United States Department of Justice has since filed a statement of interest in Uzuegbunam’s favor.

By Heather Clark

09/30/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in favor of a Christian college student who was told last year that he couldn’t preach in a campus free speech zone after officials received complaints that his speaking was “disturbing people’s peace and tranquility.”

“[A] public college that restricts speech simply because it might offend some listeners violates the tenet of content neutrality by codifying a ‘heckler’s veto,’” wrote Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “GGC’s sole stated justification for shutting down Mr. Uzuegbunam’s religious expression in the speech zone fails for precisely the same reason: it rests on ‘a listener’s reaction to speech,’ not the speech itself.”

Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), sought in July 2016 to distribute tracts and engage in one-on-one conversations with other students outside of the school library. However, he was soon approached by college officials and informed that he could only engage in expressive activity in one of two free speech zones, and only with a permit.

Uzuegbunam then went through the proper channels and proceeded with his evangelistic endeavors in a designated free speech zone weeks later, but this time, also preaching to passersby. He says that he did not use any amplification, nor were his words inflammatory, but he rather simply presented the gospel to students.

“Mr. Uzuegbunam began by discussing the brevity of life and how all men and women have fallen short of God’s commands,” Uzuegbunam’s legal challenge reads. “He continued by explaining how Jesus Christ had come to earth to die on the cross and rise again from the dead in order to provide men and women the only means of obtaining salvation and eternal life. He also explained how this gift of eternal life is available to all by God’s grace and that it is the only way to avoid the penalty for our sins.”

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