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Lawsuit: Students Ordered to Stop Handing Out Copies of the U.S. Constitution

A University of Hawaii at Hilo student filed a lawsuit against her school on Thursday, alleging she was ordered to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.

Merritt Burch is suing the public university for violating her constitutional right to free speech.

She is represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit educational and free speech advocacy group, which reports that:

 … 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. Burch and (her friend) were told that if they wanted to protest, the proper place to do so would be in UH Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a sloping, one-third acre area on the edge of campus. The “free speech zone” represents approximately 0.26% of UH Hilo’s total area and is muddy and prone to flooding in Hilo’s frequent rain. The administrator further observed, “This isn’t really the ’60s anymore” and “people can’t really protest like that anymore.”

Burch and (her friend) are challenging the denial of their right to hand out literature and policies restricting the distribution of literature. The suit also challenges UH Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a separate policy requiring students to request permission seven working days prior to engaging in expressive activity in two central outdoor areas on campus, and the failure of UH Hilo officials to adequately train administrators on the rights of college students.

Administrators at the University of Hawaii at Hilo would do well to read the U.S. Constitution, rather than forbidding patriotic students from handing copies of it out.

And in case you’re wondering why this story sounds so familiar, it’s because a left-leaning and ill-informed college administrator in California did the same thing to a student last October.

Read the full report.

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