Victory for Free Speech at Indian River Community College

February 2, 2005

FORT PIERCE, Fla., February 2, 2005—In a statement issued yesterday evening,

Florida ’s Indian River Community College (IRCC) overturned its prohibition on a student-organized screening of The Passion of the Christ.IRCC made the decision after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took the case of the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF), which wanted to show the film, to the national media.IRCC’s statement confirmed that the college had not enforced its policies on public expression consistently and according to constitutional guidelines.Late last week, CSF also reported that IRCC has rescinded its authoritarian requirement that a faculty advisor monitor all student organization meetings.

“We appreciate IRCC’s acknowledgement of its mistakes and its recognition of its duty to allow constitutionally protected expression on campus,” remarked FIRE President

David French .“While the students never should have been put through this experience, FIRE is very pleased that IRCC ultimately decided to reject oppression and embrace liberty—not just for the Christian Student Fellowship, but for all of its students.”

Last fall, IRCC prohibited CSF from hosting a screening of The Passion of the Christ on campus, justifying its actions by claiming to have banned all R-rated movies.Soon afterwards, it enacted a new policy requiring a faculty advisor’s presence at all student group events.This Orwellian policy effectively prevented CSF from meeting because its demands on the time of CSF’s faculty advisor forced him to resign.When CSF’s efforts to resolve the situation proved unsuccessful, the group contacted FIRE for help.

FIRE intervened and quickly discovered and publicized a profound double standard:IRCC had recently allowed the performance of a skit called “F**king for Jesus” and a viewing of the R-rated documentary film Welcome to Sarajevo, but it would not allow the showing of The Passion of the Christ. Under intense media pressure, IRCC conducted a legal review of its policies, leading to yesterday’s decision to permit the screening and last week’s decision to lift the requirement that a college official attend all student group meetings.

“This is a victory for free speech, students’ rights, and common sense,” noted FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff.“IRCC had a rule that treated college students like children, but it has shown the courage to admit it was wrong.We are pleased that this case has been successfully resolved and would be happy to advise IRCC administrators if they have any questions about how best to demonstrate their respect for the rights of their students in the future,” he concluded.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities.FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across

can be viewed at thefire.org.

CONTACT: 

Greg Lukianoff, Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg@thefire.org

David French , President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; david.french@thefire.org

Edwin R. Massey, President,

Indian River Community College : 772-462-4701; emassey@ircc.edu

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