Clemson, South Carolina — May 12, 2016. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) sent a letter today on behalf of Todd Friel to officials of Clemson University, requesting they no longer enforce their Facility Use Policy to curb consensual conversations on campus.
On Friday April 22, 2016, Friel, a radio and television show host, visited Clemson University, a public university, to interview students about their beliefs. He went to a well-travelled pathway on campus called Library Bridge, asked students for permission to speak with them, and if granted, proceeded to orally converse with them. He did not put on a demonstration, draw a crowd, or cause any kind of disturbance. Yet, campus police and officials soon approached Friel and told him he could not visit with students without university permission. While the officials admitted Friel had every right to stand on Library Bridge, they insisted that his conversations constituted an “event” for which the university demands a permit, notice of 72 hours in advance, and payment of a fee. If Friel refused to comply, they warned, he would be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.
CRE’s letter points out the free speech violation created by Clemson’s policy of treating simple one-on-one conversations as an event subject to a permit and onerous restrictions. The letter asks Clemson to respond within three weeks.
“Mr. Friel is not putting on an event; he only wants to visit with willing students,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The First Amendment does not tolerate burdens as extreme as a permit requirement on speech as harmless as one-on-one oral conversations. It’s just talk.”