By Christopher White at The College Fix
Boise State University took unconstitutional actions by charging security fees to a student group that hosted a Second Amendment event featuring the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, the students allege – adding they want their money back.
The students are supported by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which jumped into the fray last week, following the lead of several Idaho groups. FIRE told the university in a letter that it violated the First Amendment rights of BSU’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter.
Federal courthouse security guard Dick Heller prevailed in his challenge to Washington, D.C.’s gun law that required him to keep his personal gun at the courthouse. The Supreme Court ruled he could keep his gun at his home, deeming the city’s strict law unconstitutional.
Boise State’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter hosted a stop on the “Dick Heller 2nd Amendment Tour of Idaho” on May 16. Less than a day before the event, the university notified the group it would have to pay a $465 fee for the presence of three security guards and two police officers if it didn’t want Heller’s address canceled. The group gave in and paid the fee.
The fee was justified because there was concern that “a community member had been encouraging folks (via social media) to open carry to the event” – a violation of BSU policy, Kathleen Tuck, BSU assistant director of communications and marketing, told The College Fix in an email. “As this is a violation of campus policy, we took steps to ensure campus safety and to make sure policy was enforced.”
The university did not divulge the name of the person allegedly encouraging people to openly carry at the event, but FIRE’s letter to campus officials names a possible person – a nonstudent, Matthew Townsend III, who posted on the YAL chapter’s Facebook page that he wanted to carry a gun on campus “again soon.”
Townsend also wrote in a May 14 post on the Facebook page for the Heller event: “I’ll be there. I’ll be dressed no differently than I am anywhere else,” with a smiley-face emoticon.
“Boise State overstepped its bounds by charging extra security fees last minute for an event where the goal wasn’t to have an open-carry gun rally, but rather provide an educational forum for our students and community regarding a very important, historical Second Amendment Supreme Court ruling,” Sherlyn Rose, the chapter’s vice president, told IdahoReporter.com, a watchdog news outlet project of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
The Idaho chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, IFF’s Center for Defense of Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom also criticized BSU policies for forcing YAL members to use their own money to pay for security, IdahoReporter.com said in a separate story last week.
Geoffrey Talmon, director of the Center for Defense of Liberty, told IdahoReporter.com he wrote to Boise State President Bob Kustra, asking for a refund for the YAL chapter, and also noted that the event’s details had been removed from two pages on the university’s website before the event.
FIRE called the security fee a “heckler’s veto” that can be deployed by “anyone wishing to cause difficulties for a student group engaging in controversial or unpopular expression,” in its letter to the school July 3. FIRE also recently launched a nationwide litigation campaign against campus speech codes.
“Against this backdrop, we hope Boise State will quickly refund YAL’s fees, revise its event policies, and allow the entire Boise State campus to be the ‘free speech zone’ the First Amendment demands that it be,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE senior vice president.
Boise State University is under scrutiny for other actions affecting speech on campus.
Pro-life group Abolitionists4Life, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed suit against the school June 27 for requiring it to have warning signs for “controversial” pro-life events and confining the group’s advocacy to “speech zones” that cover less than 1 percent of the campus.
ADF said the university allowed Planned Parenthood to distribute condoms on campus and a secular group to distribute “Does God Exist?” fliers in “open spaces” on campus without including warning signs.