Raleigh, NC — January 25, 2019. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a lawsuit today in the federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, seeking to restore the First Amendment right of Paul Roepnack so he can share his Christian faith on public sidewalks and ways on the perimeter of North Carolina State University (NC State) stadium/arena complex.
On September 28, 2018, Roepnack, a local to the Raleigh area and alumnus of NC State, peacefully passed out literature and talked to passersby about the good news of Jesus Christ on the public sidewalk between Trinity Road and Carter-Finley Stadium. That day, NC State’s football team was having a home game, giving Roepnack an excellent opportunity to reach people as they walked in the area. But he was soon stopped by NC State officials, who ordered him to cease all expressive activity. NC State makes people like Roepnack obtain permission in advance to speak on their campus, and asserted that the university controls the sidewalk that borders Trinity Road even though it is part of public right-of-way. The officials refused to give Roepnack permission to share his Christian beliefs there in any manner. While scores of people walked and talked on that same sidewalk, Roepnack was forced to be silent.
On Roepnack’s behalf, CRE sent a letter to NC State officials, pointing out that the sidewalks and ways on the border of the stadium property should be open for free expression, and asked NC State to allow Roepnack to speak there in the future. But NC State declined, claiming a right to ban speech entirely in those public areas. Left with no alternative, Roepnack filed a lawsuit to secure his constitutional rights.
“Public sidewalks and ways hold a special place under the First Amendment,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Speech cannot be banned in such areas just because they happen to fall on the border of a public university. We must keep the marketplace of ideas open.”
Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people. For more information, visit http://www.crelaw.org.