(PresidentialWire.com)- In an overwhelming decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a Georgia college student could seek damages from the college since it discouraged and/or prohibited him from sharing his viewpoints on campus.
The 8-1 ruling had only one dissent — Chief Justice John Roberts.
The case involved Chike Uzuegbunam, a former student of Georgia Gwinnett College. Roughly five years ago, he was approached on campus by a police officer who told him he couldn’t distribute written materials that expressed his Christian faith. Uzuegbunam was giving them out near the campus library, at an outdoor plaza.
The college officially said it had two other areas on campus that were dedicated to free speech expression.
In December 2016, the Alliance Defending Freedom sued the college on behalf of Uzuegbunam. They argued the college had violated the student’s religions rights. Another student who wanted to preach on campus, Joseph Bradford, later joined that case as an additional plaintiff.
The majority opinion in the Supreme Court case was written by Clarence Thomas. It read:
“[I]t is undisputed that Uzuegbunam experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him. Because ‘every violation [of a right] imports damage,’ … nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury.”
The victory is huge not just for Uzuegbunam and students around the country, but also for conservatives who have often found that their speech — which often doesn’t jive with the beliefs of liberal universities and colleges — has been silenced in recent years.
Roberts, who cast the lone dissenting vote, wrote that he did so for two reasons — because the “challenged restrictions no longer exist. And the petitioners have not alleged actual damages.”
Since the incident, Georgia Gwinnett College has changed rules that they say make it easier for students and student groups to hold various events on campus.
Despite this, Uzuegbunam’s case will now head back down to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based out of Atlanta, where the nominal damages will be decided upon.
Following the ruling, the college released a statement that read:
“Georgia Gwinnett College has supported and continues to support the rights of individuals to freely and openly share their thoughts and ideas on the College’s campus in accordance with the First Amendment. Georgia Gwinnett College cannot otherwise comment on pending litigation.”
The case was dismissed by a federal court judge back in 2018. The judge said the college ended up resolving the main issue at hand that initially sparked the legal challenge. The changes the college made including allowing people to speak at any outdoor area on campus, rather than just the pre-determined “free speech areas.”
The alliance appealed that decision, though, seeking more than a simple dismissal. Kristen Waggoner, the general counselor of the ADF, said the nominal damages were stil important because “if government officials are allowed to treat our rights as worthless, they will become worthless.”
While the case was making its way through the legal system, state legislators in Georgia continued to propose laws that would make it easier for people and groups to speak on college campuses throughout Georgia