JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There are no absolutes in the 1st Amendment and Arkansas State University did not limit the free speech rights of a person who attempted to speak last year to students on campus, attorneys for the university said Thursday in a filing in federal court.
In an answer to a suit from ASU System Associate General Counsel Delena C. Hurst, university officials say they did not take away the free speech rights of Turning Point USA at Arkansas State University and Ashlyn Hoggard.
Both Turning Point USA and Hoggard filed suit in federal court in Jonesboro last December, alleging the university violated freedom of speech for the group and Hoggard as well as limited free speech to a small area of campus.
Hoggard said last year that she was speaking with students about the group and their 1st Amendment rights, and to have the group recognized as a student group on campus. She also said campus security told her to stop and an employee with the group was given a warning for criminal trespass.
However, Hurst said in the filing that the university's Freedom of Expression policy is "content and viewpoint neutral" and that there are certain limits to the 1st Amendment under existing law.
"Defendants admit that citizens derive the right to free speech from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects speech in various forms and in various contexts, including on the campus of a public university. However, the First Amendment does not transform every piece of publicly-owned property into an unlimited forum where anyone can go, say or do anything they want," Hurst said in the filing. "The rights granted under the First Amendment are important, but not without limits. Over time, the courts have defined those limits, as they apply in different circumstances and different locations. Defendants deny any allegations inconsistent therewith."
Hurst also said in the filing that the university's policy is legal. The university is also requesting a jury trial in the case.
A request to dismiss the suit was denied by a federal judge last month.
Here is a copy of the response from Arkansas State University filed in federal court Thursday in the case: