South Carolina

College of Charleston settles free speech lawsuit with student group

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Gavel Photo by Getty Images This is a stock image downloaded from Getty Images. It is a Royalty Free image.

The College of Charleston has settled a lawsuit with a student group that claimed the school violated its members’ rights to free speech.

The lawsuit claimed that the school violated the First Amendment by refusing to officially recognize South Carolina Politics Club, a non-partisan student political organization, according to a previous article from The State. In response, College of Charleston argued that it didn’t need to approve the student group because the group was essentially the same as an existing group on campus.

Without being recognized as a student organization, it could not book rooms, speakers or access school funds, the article said.

As a part of the settlement, College of Charleston agreed to recognize South Carolina Politics Group as a student group, pay the student group’s attorneys $20,000 and change the school’s policies, according to settlement documents.

Those changes include setting up a more objective set of guidelines, according to a press release from the student group’s attorneys. Those changes include preventing the school from rejecting a student group just because it is similar to existing organizations, the release said.

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The students are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a wealthy, Scottsdale, Arizona-based right-wing group that advocates for a litany of conservative, hot-button causes. Some of those include allowing religious business owners to not serve LGBTQ+ customers, advocating against abortion and protecting religious speech on campus, according to the organization’s website.

“Public colleges and universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas. This policy change ensures that the South Carolina Politics Club and all student organizations can operate in that marketplace on an equal playing field that doesn’t permit discrimination based on viewpoint,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Caleb Dalton said in a press release. “We commend the College of Charleston for agreeing to make policy changes that respect students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.”