(See UPDATE below.)
The Colorado School of Mines had offered the opportunity for donors to its new athletic complex to get a personalized nameplate with an inscription of their choice. The plate would be placed in the (new) football locker room.
There were no noted restrictions on inscription content.
That is, until Michael Lucas, a former CSM football player who donated $2,500, wanted a couple of Bible verses on his nameplate.
“Public colleges and universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas, especially in a forum like this. The school initially imposed no restrictions – or even guidelines – on the type of message a donor could include, and contrary to what the school is arguing, the First Amendment protects – not restricts – a simple reference to a Bible verse,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker. “It’s patently ridiculous to argue that a Bible reference that doesn’t include the text of the verse is somehow inappropriate simply because someone might look it up and see that ‘Lord’ is mentioned there.”
[The school] claimed that to allow [the verses] would be a violation of the First Amendment; however, the First Amendment actually protects such speech. Furthermore, the school’s official policy prohibits “discrimination on the basis of…religion….”
CSM approved other requests for nameplate inscriptions that included quotes such as “Give ‘Em Hell,” “OK Gentlemen, it’s time to gird your loins,” and “Take your whiskey clear.”
The ADF filed a federal lawsuit on Lucas’s behalf on Wednesday.
“The United States Constitution prohibits the government from treating religion with hostility or from excessively entangling the government with religion,” the complaint says.
“The censorship of Mr. Lucas’s religious speech – while permitting similar, but nonreligious, private speech from other members of the public regarding the same and similar subject matters – also constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional in any type of forum.”
It remains truly befuddling how so many education officials are ignorant about the First Amendment.
UPDATE: CSM has issued a statement. It reads, in part:
“As a state institution, Mines is bound by the U.S. Constitution and the university’s policy prohibiting unlawful discrimination by promoting or supporting one faith or belief over others.”
But it isn’t the school’s speech — it’s Mr. Lucas’s.
h/t to The Daily Caller.
IMAGE: By DC Writer Dawn/Flickr