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 happening again. We also want to hear from Sinclair CC students and student organizations who may have suffered similar censorship. Has this happened to you or someone you know? FIRE wants to know, which is why yesterday I sent the following message to several SCC student organizations. Please forward this message on to students you know at Sinclair Community College, and encourage them to do the same.
Dear Sinclair Community College Students and Student Organizations:
My name is Peter Bonilla, and I’m the Associate Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE; thefire.org), a nonpartisan organization that protects free speech for students and faculty on campuses nationwide.
I write to you today to alert you to a recent act of censorship on the SCC campus. On June 8, attendees and participants at a rally hosted by SCC’s Traditional Values Club (TVC) were forced by SCC police officers to put away all signs they had been holding up in support of the event. At a public college like Sinclair Community College, this is unconstitutional and flouts long-held notions that the college campus is a haven of free expression, inquiry, and debate.
To make matters worse, SCC’s campus newspaper, The Clarion, reports that the SCC police have had a policy against all signs at SCC events in place since 1990, making it highly likely that they have violated the First Amendment rights of hundreds, if not thousands, of SCC students and faculty members in this way. According to The Clarion, the policy was used against two students who brought homemade signs to peacefully protest a TVC event held in February. Though the students seemed to be causing no disruption to the event, police forced them to put their signs away, in likely violation of their First Amendment rights.
So long as such a policy stands at SCC, the First Amendment rights of all SCC students, regardless of viewpoint or creed, remain threatened. FIRE is fighting this apparently longstanding policy of censorship at SCC, hoping to unite a broad diversity of SCC students against the college’s unconstitutional actions. To that end, FIRE wants to know of any instances of censorship students or student groups at Sinclair Community College have suffered as a result of the college’s prohibition on signage. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if you know of any instances of such censorship, or if you have been a victim of such censorship yourself.
Please feel free to circulate this email widely so that everyone in the SCC community has a chance to contribute.
For more information on SCC’s recent censorship and FIRE’s efforts, please visit http://thefire.org/case/903.html and read our letter to SCC President Steven Lee Johnson at http://thefire.org/article/14592.html.
Associate Director, Individual Rights Defense Program, FIRE