Thursday, February 15, 2007

7th Circuit Upholds State School's Exclusion of Uninvited Evangelist

Yesterday, in Gilles v. Blanchard, (7th Cir., Feb. 14, 2007), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in an opinion by Judge Richard Posner upheld the refusal of a state university-- Indiana's Vincennes Univeristy-- to permit traveling campus evangelist James Gilles from preaching uninvited from the library lawn in the middle of campus. The opinion refused to invalidate the university's practice of limiting speeches on the lawn those that have been invited onto campus by a faculty member or student group.

Rejecting an analysis that would categorize the library lawn as a "limited public forum", Judge Posner wrote: "The issue more simply posed is whether a university should be able to bar uninvited speakers under a policy that by decentralizing the invitation process assures nondiscrimination, and a reasonable diversity of viewpoints consistent with the university’s autonomy and right of self-governance.... [T]he Constitution does not commit a university that allows a faculty member or student group to invite a professor of theology to give a talk on campus also to invite Brother Jim and anyone else who would like to use, however worthily, the university’s facilities as his soapbox." [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]