An Edwardsville, Illinois, university violated a Christian student’s constitutional rights by ordering her not to have contact with three students who disagreed with her faith-centric viewpoint, according to a legal organization.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter late last month to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville after it ordered Maggie DeJong, a student in the master’s in art therapy counseling program, from having “any contact” or “indirect communication” with three students. The students, according to ADF, complained to the university that her viewpoint would not be “welcome or appropriate.”
The university offered no basis for the orders, which “limit her speech and physical presence on and off campus” through the end of the semester, the letter says. Further, the letter says the university acknowledged DeJong’s conduct did not violate university policy. According to the letter, the university said the non-contact orders were to “prevent interactions that could be perceived by either party as unwelcome, retaliatory, intimidating, or harassing,” according to the letter.
“Universities, especially classrooms where topics are supposed to be vigorously debated, should be marketplaces of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thinking,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Maggie has always respectfully expressed her viewpoint in class, which every student is entitled to do under the First Amendment. The university must immediately rescind the no-contact orders and revise its policies to adequately safeguard students’ constitutional rights.”
Langhofer told The Daily Citizen that DeJong’s Christian beliefs are the source of the dispute. At one point, Maggie informed a fellow student that “her personal beliefs are grounded in objective truth by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” according to The Daily Citizen.
The no-contact orders have prevented DeJong from “fully” participating in her educational activities, the letter says. Because of the orders, she cannot fully participate in classes with the three students. She also cannot participate in group chats in which any of the three students are present.
The orders violate DeJong’s free speech protections as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the letter says. The letter says legal action is possible if the university does not withdraw the orders.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.