North Carolina State University Settles First Amendment Suit.
North Carolina State University (NCSU) recently settled with Grace Christian Life (GCL) for $72,500 over NCSU’s “Non-Commercial Solicitation Policy.” NCSU’s policy required student groups to get written permission from administrators before distributing literature, or merely speaking to students on campus. GCL claims they are a “non-denominational church that meets on campus at NC State” and they are a “diverse gathering of college students and young adults who seek to give an accurate picture of Jesus and His church to all people everywhere.” Importantly, “NC State chose to enforce its policy against Grace Christian Life, with administrator’s emails showing that merely handing someone a card was construed as improper ‘solicitation.” GCL “suggested the policy was applied solely as a means of controlling dissident conservative voices, with other groups reportedly promoting freely without harassment from university administrators.” GSL sued in Federal Court. NCSU argued that their policy was a reasonable time, place and manner restriction as allowed under the First Amendment, and that all that was required under the policy is that a group ask for permission. In contrast, GCL argued that the First Amendment does not grant government officials unfettered discretion to use their own judgment to grant a permit, and similarly, if there are no requirements other than asking for permission, why require a permit at all?
On June 4th, 2016, Judge James C. Dever of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division, entered his Order and Preliminary Injunction siding with GCL. There, Judge Dever enjoined NCSU from “requiring any student, student group, or off-campus guest sponsored by a student or student group to obtain a permit for Non-Commercial Solicitation as currently required by [NCSU policy]” and importantly that “Defendants shall not impose restrictions on any forms of Non-Commercial Solicitation because of the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to the expression.”
NCSU will not appeal the decision stating the administration will “follow the court’s preliminary ruling.”
--By Derek A. Jordan, Esq., Barnes Law
Derek A. Jordan is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in Tennessee.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
 See: footnote 1.
 See: text of Order and Preliminary Injunction linked above.
 See: footnote 3.