Christian Student Files Lawsuit Against Va. College for Barring Him From Preaching on Campus

A Christian student has filed a lawsuit against a Virginia academic institution over allegations that he was prohibited from preaching on campus.

Brought before the Eastern District of Virginia Newport News Division on March 13, Christian Parks alleges that TNCC stopped him from preaching at an on-campus plaza area.

This prohibition, reads the suit, violated Parks' "fundamental rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, due process, and equal protection of law."

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"When plaintiff Christian Parks, a student at TNCC, sought to preach and discuss his religious views in an open, outdoor plaza on campus, TNCC officials required him to stop in part because his speech might offend someone," continued the lawsuit.

"Defendants took these actions because of the content and viewpoint of Parks' expression, because they feared his expression would prompt complaints, and because they wanted to pacify those who might be offended by his expression. In taking these actions, they … violated Parks' constitutional rights, and inflicted irreparable injury upon him."

Parks is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

David Hacker, senior legal counsel with the ADF, said in a statement that free speech is an important component of collegiate life.

"Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule," said Hacker.

"We hope that Virginia Community College System will revise its policy so that students no longer have to jump through unconstitutional hoops to exercise the freedoms that the First Amendment protects."

The Christian Post reached out to Thomas Nelson Community College, however, they declined to comment due to the Parks situation being "the subject of pending litigation."

At issue in the lawsuit is the student demonstration policy of TNCC and its parent organization, the Richmond-based Virginia Community College System.

According to their policy, a student can only stage a demonstration on a community college campus if they belong to a student organization and get permission at least four days in advance.

In addition to the ADF, another critic of TNCC and VCCS's policy on student demonstrations is the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a letter sent out to TNCC and VCCS officials, the ACLU expressed concern about the policy and encouraged the VCCS to amend it by their next board meeting in May.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said in a statement that they "fully support Parks' lawsuit."

"Virginia's community college students deserve a first-rate higher education, which is impossible without a free exchange of ideas on campus," said Gastañaga.

"College administrators may sometimes need advance knowledge of large demonstrations on campus, but to apply these rules to a single student talking to his peers is absurd and unconstitutional."

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