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Alabama Supreme Court Rules Challenge to U. Alabama ‘Free Speech Zone’ Can Proceed

Alabama Supreme Court Rules Challenge to U. Alabama ‘Free Speech Zone’ Can Proceed

“the policy allows such spontaneous speech only in certain designated areas on campus”

The very idea of ‘free speech zones’ is baffling, especially at a university.

From Reason’s Volokh Conspiracy blog:

Challenge to U of Alabama’s “Free Speech Zone” Policy Can Proceed, Under Alabama Campus Free Speech Act

Today’s decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in Young Americans for Liberty v. St. John holds that a University of Alabama “free speech zone” policy violates the Alabama Campus Free Speech Act, which generally requires state universities to implement policies (and which is based in some measure on the Goldwater Institute campus free speech proposal):

That the outdoor areas of a campus of a public institution of higher education shall be deemed to be a forum for members of the campus community, and the institution shall not create free speech zones or other designated outdoor areas of the campus in order to limit or prohibit protected expressive activities….

That the public institution of higher education may maintain and enforce constitutional time, place, and manner restrictions for outdoor areas of campus only when they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant institutional interest and when the restrictions employ clear, published, content-neutral, and viewpoint-neutral criteria, and provide for ample alternative means of expression. All restrictions shall allow for members of the university community to spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble and distribute literature….

The majority, in an opinion by Justice Bryan (joined by Justices Bolin, Wise, and Mendheim), concluded:

[T]he general rule under the policy is that students must make reservations for activities that make use of the campus’s outdoor areas. However, reservations are not required for “spontaneous activities of expression” that occur in outdoor areas. But the policy allows such spontaneous speech only in certain designated areas on campus. The policy lists 20 designated areas, spread out over campus, where spontaneous speech is allowed.

We agree with the plaintiffs that the designated areas for spontaneous speech are prohibited “free speech zones” under the Act…. The Act establishes the outdoor areas of campus as an open forum for free speech and unambiguously prohibits the carving out of special free-speech areas on campus. The designated areas for spontaneous speech identified in the policy are plainly free-speech zones under the Act, and the Act prohibits such zones. Accordingly, the policy violates the Act insofar as it establishes designated areas for spontaneous speech, and the circuit court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs’ action….


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You don’t understand the concept of free speech zones? Let me explain it to you: A free speech zone is a very small area where people can exercise their rights in such a way that it doesn’t offend the majority who don’t like them (both the rights and the people rude enough to think they have them).

Also, it makes it easy to find the bad people who believe in things like freedom and God, and punish them. I mean, if they could say their evil things (like, “We should obey the Constitution!” or “Life is sacred, including the unborn”) just anywhere, hunting them down would be so exhausting!