Fla. College Criticized for ‘Passion’ Ban

January 20, 2005

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A community college is drawing criticism for banning a Christian student organization from showing the film “The Passion of the Christ.”

Indian River Community College officials defended the decision, saying they were following a long-standing practice — but one not written into policy — banning student groups from airing R-rated films.

“They say we’re in college now, that we’re all adults. But now they’re saying this movie is too graphic,” said Christeena Koshy, a 20-year-old nursing student and a member of Christian Student Fellowship. “They’re acting like we’re little kids.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based watchdog group focused on the nation’s colleges, accuses the school of a double standard because it has allowed other R-rated films, such as the documentary “Welcome to Sarajevo.”

FIRE president David French said the college was trampling on the “legal and moral rights to free speech and freedom of conscience.”

Johnny Moore, the college’s vice president of student affairs, said the ban on R-rated movies is intended to protect underage students attending the college under its dual-enrollment program with local high schools.

“The decision … had nothing to do with the movie’s religious context,” Moore said.

College spokeswoman Michelle Abaldo said R-rated movies, such as “Welcome to Sarajevo,” have been shown as part of class lessons, but never by a student group. Recently, the school denied another group’s request to show “The Last Samurai.”

Moore said the college has asked constitutional attorneys to review the college’s rules on student events on campus. He said changes could be made after the review.

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Schools: Indian River State College Cases: Indian River Community College: Ban on ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and Repression of Free Speech