A Christian conservative student has filed suit against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville alleging the institution violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization representing student Maggie DeJong, alleged in her lawsuit that the university violated her constitutional rights after it issued “no-contact orders” and asked fellow students to report her for “harmful rhetoric.”
The College Fix notes further:
Officials issued the no-contact orders, starting in February, after several students reported DeJong’s speech to the university. The students informed the school that DeJong shared conservative views during class discussions, such as support for police officers. DeJong also shared her pro-life views and criticized Black Lives Matter on her personal social media.
The students alleged that DeJong’s statements constituted “harassment,” “discrimination,” and “microaggressions” and were not “welcome or appropriate,” according to ADF attorneys.
Following the complaints, university officials launched an investigation into DeJong while barring her from having “any contact,” which included “indirect communication,” with any of the students who file the complaints. SIUE officials issued the no-contact order before giving the student a chance to defend herself or before finishing their investigation into the issue.
In an interview with The College Fix, SIUE Director of Media Relations Megan Wieser said that the university never comments on pending litigation.
The lawsuit says that university officials also did not tell DeJong about the allegations or inform her as to which policies she allegedly violated. They did tell her, however, that she could be subjected to further “disciplinary action[s]” should she violate the no-contact orders.
Megan Robb, director of the school’s art therapy program, “publicly confirmed that Ms. DeJong was under investigation and accused her of ‘misconduct’ and ‘oppressive acts’” in an email to all 30 students enrolled in the program.
Meanwhile, ADF alleged that the email was a violation of an SIUE policy that requires university staffers to “take all reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality” during a probe involving students.
“SIUE officials are determined to force their graduate students to think and speak exactly the same—or stay silent—and they will punish anyone who steps out of line,” ADF Senior Counsel Gregg Walters, who is representing DeJong, said in a news release.
“Maggie has always respectfully shared her religious or political views, which every student is entitled to do under the First Amendment,” according to Walters. “It is a sad day for civil dialogue and freedom of speech when universities can issue gag orders like those issued against Maggie for nothing more than expressing her beliefs — beliefs held by millions of Americans.”
The attorney told the outlet that DeJong “asked the university to change their unconstitutional policies, and the university hasn’t done that. So she’s not the last student that will be impacted by these policies that censor student speech.”
Walters also said that one of the objectives of the lawsuit is “to challenge these policies and ensure that students are able to speak freely on campus about their beliefs.”
He went on to say that the organization is currently representing three students in Idaho who have had similar ‘no-contact’ orders put in place against them.
ADF has “seen speech policies that violate students’ rights consistently,” however, since universities and cultures are now prone to “treating speech as violence,” he added.