Fort Dodge, Iowa — July 16, 2015. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a federal lawsuit today against Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) over a policy which bans non-university speakers from engaging in religious conversations on campus.
Brian Henderson is a Christian farmer and a civil engineer who works in Fort Dodge. During his lunch breaks, he went to ICCC to engage students in cordial conversations about God. But, after a year of pleasant conversations, ICCC officials told Henderson that he was not allowed to share his faith anywhere on campus, claiming it was prohibited “solicitation.”
Henderson explained to ICCC’s administration that he was not soliciting anything from the students: he simply wanted to speak to willing listeners. He pled with ICCC’s administration all the way up to the Board of Directors to let him share his faith with students somewhere on campus, but his requests were repeatedly refused. ICCC officials told Henderson that the only way he could talk about religion on campus would be if a student initiated the conversation. Unable to reach a compromise with ICCC officials, Henderson filed lawsuit seeking judgment declaring the university policy unconstitutional and enjoining officials from applying the policy to his religious speech.
“Branding Henderson’s religious speech as solicitation and prohibiting it defies common sense,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Religious speech is not commercial solicitation. ICCC cannot treat Henderson like he sells credit cards. He simply wants to share his faith with people who are willing to listen.”
The lawsuit stresses that it is wrong to suppress religious ideas on the basis that the speaker is “soliciting” attention.
“Public colleges and universities have long been considered the ‘marketplace of ideas,’” Kellum explained. “The First Amendment protects a speaker’s right to be heard.”