A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Robert Van Tuinen, a student in California whose college banned him from distributing copies of the Constitution in public areas of campus on September 17—Constitution Day. The story was national news and rightfully outraged many supporters of free expression (not to mention common sense) nationwide.
Unfortunately, despite the widespread criticism of Modesto Junior College’s actions, college president Jill Stearns has since only agreed to “evaluate” the school’s policies that resulted in the censorship of Van Tuinen. Today, the school still requires that students register their expression five days in advance and limit it to a tiny, cement “free speech area.” It should therefore come as no surprise that Van Tuinen is suing the Yosemite Community College District and Modesto Junior College administrators for violating his free speech rights both under the California Constitution and the First Amendment.
FIRE Senior VP Robert Shibley put it well in today’s press release:
“Constitutional law can get pretty complicated at times. This is not one of those times … As FIRE has said from the beginning, every person at Modesto Junior College responsible for enforcing this policy should have known better. The fact that Modesto’s policy was not immediately abandoned when its shameful results were exposed on video is more evidence that too many college administrators fear freedom of speech—and demonstrates how out of touch they are with an American public that respects the First Amendment.”
I’ll continue to update Ricochet members on the case as it plays out. In the meantime, you can relive Van Tuinen’s surreal ordeal in this video: