Logo
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Idaho law school: Disagreement not allowed

Lawsuit challenges use of “no-contact” order to suppress disfavored speech


Students on the University of Idaho campus Facebook/University of Idaho

Idaho law school: Disagreement not allowed

Three Christian law students filed a federal lawsuit after the University of Idaho barred them from any contact with another student who disagreed with their Biblical view on marriage and sexuality.

According to the April 25 complaint, the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations issued the directive to Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander after a disagreement with a female student. The three students, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, contend the school’s no-contact order violates their free speech and free exercise of religion. In a follow-up motion, they have asked the court to rescind the school’s order and block the investigation.

The law students joined other members of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at a schoolwide “moment of community” gathering in early April, according to the complaint. Students had assembled to condemn an anti-LGTBQ slur written on a whiteboard at another campus of the university. CLS students, as well as some non-CLS students, gathered at the event to pray.

At the assembly, another law student approached the three to ask why the school’s CLS chapter requires its officers to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. Miller explained that it was the only view affirmed in the Bible. Shortly after the discussion, Perlot, president of the CLS chapter, wrote a note to the student offering to meet and discuss their differences, the complaint says. Instead, just days later, the student denounced CLS’ position at a panel with the American Bar Association.

Alexander and another student attended the meeting and said in the complaint that some of the student’s accusations — like that one of the CLS students told her to “go to hell”—were inaccurate. He said the most discrimination he had seen on campus was against CLS and its religious beliefs. The group experienced difficulty in gaining recognition as an official student group.

Three days later, the school issued no-contact orders. The accused students said they did not receive notice or have an opportunity to review the allegations or defend themselves. The orders — made under the school’s Title IX sexual harassment policy and its code of conduct and disciplinary policies — bar the three CLS members from any contact with their accuser and direct them to sit on the opposite side of any classroom from the student. The mandates have no end date and apply both on and off campus.

No-contact orders have historically been applied when serious allegations of sexual harassment have occurred. But Alliance Defending Freedom Counsel Mathew Hoffmann explained they are increasingly being used to silence controversial speech that causes discomfort to those who disagree.

“These policies are so broad that they give unbridled discretion to university administrators to censor viewpoints that they don’t like, which is exactly what happened here,” Hoffmann said. He added that the policies go far beyond what federal law requires.

ADF handled a similar case in which a Southern Illinois University no-contact order was issued to a student after classmates complained her views were not welcome or appreciated. After receiving a letter from ADF, the university dropped the investigation.

Hoffmann said the University of Idaho has not responded, nor has any hearing been set on ADF’s motion.


Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C.

@slntplanet

COMMENT BELOW

Please wait while we load the latest comments...

Comments

Please register, subscribe, or login to comment on this article.