College Students Banned From Handing Out Constitution Except In 'Free Speech Zone'

Tara Dodrill

University of Hawaii students were stopped from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus because they were attempting to do so outside of designated "free speech zones." As previously reported by The Inquisitr, college students on at least one other university in the United States.

Anthony Vizzone and Merritt Burch are members of the University of Hawaii chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. The pair of young men filed a First Amendment infringement lawsuit over the matter in federal court on Thursday. The college students contend that school administrators violated their constitutional free speech rights during an outdoor student event held on the campus in January. Student groups were reportedly permitted to set up information tables and distribute literature during the gathering.

The Young Americans for Liberty members are being represented by Davis Wright Termaine, the same attorneys who represented a Modesto Junior College student who was also prohibited from handing out copies of the Constitution. The California college student won a $50,000 settlement against the school.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is assisting with the lawsuit. "So far this academic year, students have twice been prohibited from distributing the Constitution on a public campus, less than four months apart. That is absolutely unacceptable," group president Greg Lukianoff said.

Anthony Vizzone and Merritt Burch were told by a University of Hawaii administrator that if they wanted to protest the policy about handing out copies of the Constitution, they could do so in the designated free speech zone, according to the First Amendment lawsuit. The free speech zone is reportedly a one-third of an acre space on the edge of the UH Hilo campus. A FIRE statement maintains that the free speech zone is representative of less than one percent of the total grounds area of UH Hilo and is typically muddy and prone to flooding. The lawsuit also states that student must request permission to conduct "expressive activity" at least seven working days prior to stepping inside the free speech zone to wave a sign, chant, or hand out literature.

Lukianoff also said:

"The First Amendment is not optional at public colleges, it's the law. Enforcing restrictive free speech zone policies that prevent students from passing out copies of the Constitution is impossible to justify."
"On January 16, 2014, plaintiff Merritt Burch, who is president of the UH Hilo chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and a fellow student YAL member were participating in an outdoor event where student groups set up tables to distribute literature. Observing other students walking around and handing out items, Burch and her friend walked out from behind YAL's table to likewise hand out Constitutions and YAL information cards. A UH Hilo administrator ordered Burch and her companion to stop approaching students and get back behind their table, dismissing Burch's protest about her constitutional rights. A week later, in an orientation meeting for student organizations, another administrator reiterated the rule against passing out literature."

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