In a statement issued yesterday evening, Florida’s Indian River Community College (IRCC) overturned its prohibition on a student-organized screening of Mel Gibson’s “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.
Previously, the college had allowed a campus performance of a blasphemous skit called “F**king for Jesus” – but strenuously objected to the showing of Gibson’s movie.
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Late last week, CSF also reported that IRCC has rescinded its authoritarian requirement that a faculty adviser monitor all student organization meetings.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 adviser’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 adviser forced him to resign as the group’s adviser.
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.