ILNews

SCOTUS won't hear free-speech cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Supreme Court of the United States has decided against taking two Indiana cases that involve free-speech issues.

At its conference last week when the high court decided to examine Indiana's two-year-old voter identification law, justices also declined to hear James G. Gilles v. Bryan K. Blanchard, et al., 06-1617, and Deborah A. Mayer v. Monroe County Community School Corp., et al., 06-1993. The court posted an order denying the cases Monday.

The denials mean the previous decisions from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals now stand as the final ruling in the cases.

In Gilles, the 7th Circuit in February held that a Vincennes University policy restricting uninvited "solicitations" on campus doesn't violate constitutional rights. The suit stemmed from a 2001 incident in which a Christian preacher wanted to speak on the public university's library lawn - not in a walkway outside the student union where he needed university permission - and refused to leave when asked. The Circuit Court upheld the decision by Chief Judge Larry McKinney in the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Indiana, who dismissed the case in favor of the university.

The 7th Circuit wrote, "The issue more simply posed is whether a university should be able to bar uninvited speakers under a policy that by decentralizing the invitation process assures nondiscrimination, and a reasonable diversity of viewpoints consistent with the university's autonomy and right of self-governance. We have tried to explain why the Constitution does not commit a university that allows a faculty member or student group to invite a professor of theology to give a talk on campus also to invite Brother Jim and anyone else who would like to use, however worthily, the university's facilities as his soapbox. To call the library lawn therefore a "limited designated public forum" is an unnecessary flourish. Affirmed."

In Mayer, justices declined to revisit a case involving a Bloomington teacher who was fired for comments she made about the Iraq war to elementary students during class. The decision upheld a prior ruling by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the Southern District of Indiana.

"It is enough to hold that the first amendment does not entitle primary and secondary teachers, when conducting the education of captive audiences, to cover topics, or advocate viewpoints, that depart from the curriculum adopted by the school system," the 7th Circuit wrote in that January decision.
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