Sinclair Community College: Police Ban Signs at Religious Freedom Rally

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Sinclair Community College

On June 8, 2012, SCC’s Traditional Values Club student group hosted an on-campus religious freedom rally to protest health coverage mandates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SCC police declared that signs of any kind, pro or con, were not allowed at the event and ordered all signs to be placed on the ground. SCC police reportedly have been banning signs at campus events at least since 1990. FIRE wrote to SCC on June 15, asking it to immediately reject this blatantly unconstitutional censorship. On July 6, the Thomas More Society, in discussion with FIRE and working with Ohio attorneys Curt C. Hartman, Christopher P. Finney, and Bradley M. Gibson, brought a First Amendment lawsuit against SCC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

  • Sinclair settles suit over sign

    March 12, 2013

    Sinclair Community College has settled a lawsuit that challenged the school’s former policy effectively banning protest signs and distributing leaflets at campus rallies. The lawsuit, filed in part by two students, claimed Sinclair violated the First Amendment rights of protesters when campus police ordered them to put down their signs at a June 8 “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally sponsored by the Sinclair Traditional Values Club. Sinclair has since revised its campus access policy. Under the settlement agreement, Sinclair will pay $9,681 to cover the plaintiffs’ costs and attorneys’ fees. The college also promised not to revert to its […]

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  • U. of Cincinnati loses free speech lawsuit – is another Ohio college next?

    August 23, 2012

    As a native of Toledo, Ohio (Go Mud Hens!), I guess I should be happy that my home state is so flush with cash that it had $200,000 in taxpayer funds to waste in the latest doomed attempt by a public university to violate the constitutional rights of its students. Since 2007, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) has been warning the University of Cincinnati (UC) that confining student speech to a tiny “Free Speech Area” that covered a mere 0.1% of the school’s 137-acre campus is unconstitutional. UC was dead serious about enforcing this policy — the school […]

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  • Sinclair students sue over protest sign ban

    July 14, 2012

    Sinclair Community College’s effective ban on protest signs and leafleting at campus rallies has put it at the center of a nationwide controversy over limits on free speech and public assembly at institutions designed to be marketplaces of ideas. Earlier this month, two students and a speaker at a June 8 “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally at Sinclair’s downtown Dayton campus filed suit in U.S. District Court, claiming campus police violated participants’ First Amendment rights by ordering them to put down their protest signs. The college also faces a federal lawsuit filed last year by anti-abortion demonstrators stemming from […]

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  • Victory: Ohio College Settles First Amendment Lawsuit, Scraps Speech Code

    March 12, 2013

    Here’s today’s press release:  DAYTON, Ohio, March 12, 2013—Ohio’s Sinclair Community College (SCC) has settled a First Amendment lawsuit by revising an unconstitutional speech code that prohibited students and visitors from holding signs on campus. The plaintiffs’ attorneys confirmed this week that the terms of the settlement have been accepted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The lawsuit, filed last July on behalf of students Ruth Deddens and Ethel Borel-Donohue and invited speaker Bryan Kemper, director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, was prompted by SCC’s brazen violation of the First Amendment at a campus religious freedom rally held […]

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  • Victory: Ohio College Settles First Amendment Lawsuit, Scraps Speech Code

    March 12, 2013

    DAYTON, Ohio, March 12, 2013—Ohio’s Sinclair Community College (SCC) has settled a First Amendment lawsuit by revising an unconstitutional speech code that prohibited students and visitors from holding signs on campus. The plaintiffs’ attorneys confirmed this week that the terms of the settlement have been accepted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The lawsuit, filed last July on behalf of students Ruth Deddens and Ethel Borel-Donohue and invited speaker Bryan Kemper, director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, was prompted by SCC’s brazen violation of the First Amendment at a campus religious freedom rally held on June 8, 2012. […]

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  • ‘Leaked’ Sinclair CC ‘Memo’ Explains Terrorism Concerns Behind Sign Ban

    July 18, 2012

    Intrepid investigative blogger “Ken” of the Popehat blog gets into the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein with his posting of a really super authentic memo that is really, actually from Sinclair Community College President Steven L. Johnson. The memo explains why President Johnson might have claimed that the college’s ban on signs at protests is related to an effort to crack down on domestic terrorism. Watch out Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Ken is coming to take your jobs! – P.S. Yes, we know this memo is a parody. Could you tell?    

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  • Sinclair Community College: Signs Just Too Dangerous for Campus

    July 17, 2012

    Believe it or not, Sinclair Community College (SCC) is insisting that its unconstitutional sign ban is all about student safety. Here’s SCC President Steven Lee Johnson, as quoted in today’s Dayton Daily News:  Johnson told the Dayton Daily News that Sinclair, which has about 23,000 students at its downtown campus, is committed to being “a bastion of free speech” and the open exchange of ideas. “For God’s sake, this is a college campus,” he said. “It’s an American college campus.” But Johnson said the police “have the latitude to make decisions about those things that would affect the safety and security […]

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  • Ohio College Sued for Censoring Pro-Life Event

    July 6, 2012

    DAYTON, Ohio, July 6, 2012—Today, Ohio’s Sinclair Community College (SCC) is the target of a First Amendment lawsuit following the college’s brazen violation of students’ First Amendment rights. At an on-campus rally protesting new health coverage mandates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, police officers forced event attendees and participants to put away their handheld signs communicating the protesters’ message, citing the college’s speech code. “Sinclair Community College’s censorship is so plainly unconstitutional that it’s difficult to understand how campus police and administrators justify it even to themselves,” said Robert Shibley, Senior Vice President of the Foundation […]

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  • Sinclair Community College: Enforcing Unconstitutional Sign Policy for Decades

    June 28, 2012

    This month, FIRE uncovered an outrageous unwritten policy banning all signs from events held on campus at Sinclair Community College (SCC) in Dayton, Ohio. The policy came to light when students and other demonstrators peacefully holding signs at a religious freedom rally were asked to take down their signs by campus police earlier this month (video included). Shockingly, FIRE has learned that the problem goes back much, much further—over two decades! A March 28 article published by SCC student newspaper The Clarion quotes SCC Chief of Police Charles Gift confirming that enforcement of the policy dates back to 1990: According […]

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  • ‘Signs of trouble for free speech at Sinclair CC’

    June 25, 2012

    FIRE’s Peter Bonilla has a column in the Daily Caller about Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. Its “bizarro world” policy says that students—yes, students in America!—can be prevented from carrying signs during a rally. If you can’t quite make yourself believe this (which is understandable), Peter has the video evidence that shows this actually happened. Click on through and prepare to be amazed at what this college does to silence its students.

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  • Sinclair CC Students: Have You Been Censored by SCC’s Sign Ban? Tell FIRE!

    June 22, 2012

    As we noted this week, Sinclair Community College in Ohio recently censored the free speech of participants and attendees at a religious freedom rally hosted by SCC’s Traditional Values Club. As photo and video evidence shows, police at the event forced all attendees to put away handheld signs supporting the event—a blatantly unconstitutional restriction of their right to free expression on the SCC campus. Amazingly, SCC police say they have had a policy prohibiting campus signage in place since 1990.  FIRE has written to SCC asking the college to immediately disavow the police’s actions here and prevent this censorship from […]

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  • Sinclair CC Police Ban Signs at Religious Freedom Rally

    June 19, 2012

    FIRE has written to Sinclair Community College after learning of the disturbing and unconstitutional censorship of signs at a June 8 “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally held on the Dayton, OH, campus and hosted by SCC’s Traditional Values Club (TVC).  As photo and video evidence shows, police ordered the participants at the June 8 rally to put away their signs, some of which were homemade, many of which were distributed by the national organizers (more than 160 such rallies—in protest of new health coverage mandates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—were held nationwide).  In this video recorded by one of […]

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