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Is this even America? University blocks students from handing out U.S. Constitution

Friday, May 02, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: U.S. Constitution, University censorship, free speech zones

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(NaturalNews) On most progressive American college campuses, Karl Marx's Communist manifesto gets more respect from the "enlightened" academic staff than the very Constitution under which they are free to pursue their careers.

A pair of students at the uber-liberal University of Hawaii is suing the institution for violations of their First Amendment rights after administrators there barred them from distributing copies of the Constitution, a demonstration of just how little they know about and appreciate the nation's founding legal document.

The students, Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, both members of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter on the campus of UH-Hilo, were banned from passing out the copies at a recruitment event in January. A week later, The Daily Caller reported, they were again told by an administrator obsessed with censoring them that their First Amendment-protected activities were in violation of school policy.

Burch and Vizzone were informed that they could only distribute literature within the campus' "free speech zone," which is a small, muddy and frequently flooded area on the outer edge of the institution.

In their suit, they also say the administrators denigrated them, saying things like "This isn't really the '60s anymore" and "People can't really protest like that anymore, times have really changed since then," according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

'It's not about your rights'

And yet, the First Amendment has not really been modified since the 1960s -- or ever, actually - and as such vibrantly protects the rights of Americans (even college students at public universities) to stage non-disruptive protests, speak what's on their minds and/or distribute literature, even literature that school academics might not appreciate.

The complaint also says that school administrators said institution policy trumped constitutional rights.

"It's not about your rights in this case, it's about the University policy that you can't approach people," said Ellen Kusano, director of Student Affairs, according to the complaint.

Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, could not immediately be reached for comment, The Daily Caller reported, but he said in a statement that UH's action were "absolutely unacceptable."

Lukianoff also said this is the second recent instance of a college censoring students for distributing copies of the nation's founding document. He said a similar incident occurred at Modesto Junior College in California, where student Robert Van Tuinen successfully sued the institution for a violation of his First Amendment rights.

School is already reexamining its policies

Burch and Vizzone's lawsuit is being handled by Davis Wright Tremaine, the same law firm that represented Van Tuinen, the DC reported. The suit asks for injunctive relief and for the university to pay the students' attorney fees.

"So far this academic year, students have twice been prohibited from distributing the Constitution on a public campus, less than four months apart. That is absolutely unacceptable," said Lukianoff. "The First Amendment is not optional at public colleges--it's the law. Enforcing restrictive 'free speech zone' policies that prevent students from passing out copies of the Constitution is impossible to justify."

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, FIRE said.

The Associated Press reported that the school is reviewing its policies.

"We will make any changes that are needed to ensure that free expression and First Amendment rights are fully protected on that campus and throughout the University of Hawai'i System," the University said in a statement.





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