KCC responds to political organization’s lawsuit

A view of the reflecting pools area in front of the North Avenue campus on a sunny summer day.

Kellogg Community College this week filed a brief in federal district court opposing a motion for a preliminary injunction requested by a political organization which is suing the College after three people – none of whom were KCC students at the time – were arrested for trespassing at KCC’s Battle Creek campus last fall.

Click here to view the College’s Brief in Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

The College’s court filing was initiated by a motion submitted in May by attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a self-described religious freedom advocacy organization, which represents the Young Americans for Liberty, a self-described “pro-liberty” organization. The proposed injunction seeks to limit the College’s ability to enforce its Solicitation Policy, which does not infringe upon constitutional free speech rights.

The lawsuit stems from a Sept. 20, 2016, incident in which three individuals were arrested on KCC’s North Avenue campus after repeatedly engaging in unpermitted soliciting activities at a main campus entrance. They were representing the Young Americans for Liberty, which is not a registered student organization at KCC. The individuals refused numerous requests by KCC staff to sign in, move approximately 100 feet into the Student Center – one of the busiest areas of campus – and continue their activities in compliance with the College’s Solicitation Policy.

Eric Greene, spokesman for KCC, today issued the following statement regarding the case:

“Our campus guests could have resolved their dispute with KCC in a matter of minutes on Sept. 20 and carried on their solicitation activities that same afternoon if they had simply filled out basic paperwork and moved out of the pedestrian walkway where students were trying to get to class. Responding to a complaint from a pedestrian, KCC personnel politely and repeatedly asked the individuals soliciting to comply with College policy or risk being arrested on trespassing charges.

“This case is not about free speech or viewpoint discrimination. We have felt from day one of this unnecessary lawsuit that the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit and that the College’s Solicitation Policy is constitutional and appropriate in its scope. KCC’s Solicitation Policy ensures that the time, place and manner of solicitation activities – regardless of the content of those activities – do not impede or interfere with the learning environment or College business.

“Similar policies exist at colleges, statehouses, city halls, courthouses, military memorials and other public venues across the United States. KCC’s policy, which is neither unconstitutional nor vague, has been enforced accurately and consistently over the years involving groups as varied as military recruiters and beauty product sales people to politicians running for office and members of white supremacy organizations. We don’t regulate the content of anyone’s solicitation materials, but we do govern the time, place and manner of the activities in order to ensure the safety of all students, employees and guests on our campuses.

“Despite repeated public statements that the College does not take into consideration the content of speech or solicitation when granting access to campus, the YAL and its supporters have vilified the College by spreading false information about why individuals were arrested on Sept. 20 and by suggesting that KCC does not value the U.S. Constitution or the free speech rights of its students. These accusations couldn’t be further from the truth.

“In fact, as a marketplace of ideas and thought, KCC – in policy and in practice – values free speech and the Constitutional rights of all people. We teach courses on the U.S. Constitution; we encourage healthy debate in multiple forms; and we dedicate an entire day every year to Constitution-related education and activities – including handing out free copies of the Constitution to passersby – during our annual Constitution Day celebration.

“The College takes seriously any allegation that an individual’s freedom of expression has been infringed and we have carefully reviewed our Solicitation Policy and concluded that we have been and continue to be in compliance with all applicable laws.

“KCC has retained legal counsel and will continue to address the complaint thoroughly in the United States District Court, Western District of Michigan.”

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