Friday, August 20, 2010

Court Refuses To Issue Preliminary Injunction Against University's Speaker Rules

In McGlone v. Bell, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84578 (MD TN, Aug. 16, 2010), a Tennessee federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by a Christian evangelist challenging Tennessee Technological University's policy on outside speakers' use of campus facilities.  The policy requires application 14-business days in advance by outside speakers or groups that want to use campus facilities to speak or hand out literature. The court held:
The campus use policy is content-neutral, and it specifically permits individuals and groups to express religious messages on campus. ... [It] is not vague and it does not place unbridled discretion in TTU officials to restrict speech. Rather, the policy places explicit limitations on the discretion that may be exercised by those charged with approving or denying applications for registration. The policy specifies nine (9) circumstances under which an application for registration may be denied. These specified circumstances constitute reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, and the policy is narrowly tailored to serve the significant governmental interests of TTU in promoting the orderly conduct of activities on campus and preventing the interruption of the university's normal educational mission. The policy also leaves open ample alternative channels of communication....

By ignoring the application requirement entirely, the plaintiff precluded campus officials from considering, in light of the policy's requirements, the plaintiff's desire to speak, to display signs, and to distribute literature on the TTU campus. Thus, the plaintiff has not shown that the campus use policy was applied to him, and he has not suffered any concrete and particularized harm that is actual or imminent resulting directly from the application of the policy to him.... The plaintiff's failure to show a concrete and particularized injury that is actual or imminent undercuts his facial constitutional challenge as well.
The court also dismissed on qualified immunity grounds claims against University officials in their individual capacities.