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Issues with Boise State’s speech policies have nothing to do with guns

Issues with Boise State’s speech policies have nothing to do with guns

Geoffrey Talmon
July 25, 2014
July 25, 2014

Since Boise State waited a week after the stated deadline to respond to the letter submitted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation Center for Defense of Liberty, one would think that the response would be thorough and address the concerns raised in that letter.

While it is a positive first step that the university has indicated that the security fee will be refunded to Young Americans for Liberty at Boise State University, it is terribly discouraging to read that BSU still clings to the belief that there is nothing wrong with its speech policies.

At this point four independent public interest organizations (Center for Defense of Liberty, FIRE, ACLU of Idaho, and Alliance Defending Freedom) have alerted BSU to the problems with its policies.

It is a shame that BSU has not acknowledged that there is even a speech element to this case. Instead, the university has tried to make this about guns and security. The significance of this case is not that the speech being presented was about the Second Amendment. This case would be equally important if the speaker was at BSU to talk about being pro-life, or pro-choice, or pro-gay rights, or anti-Obamacare, or anti-war, or for deregulation, or in support of any of hundreds of other issues.  This is a First Amendment issue.

It is also important to note that the First Amendment does not mean that the university is not entitled to take security precautions to protect students and visitors on campus. None of the letters sent in connection with this case have made such a claim.

What BSU clearly cannot do, however, is impose a financial penalty on an organization simply because of a statement made by someone outside of that organization. To make matters worse, BSU has not identified the “community member” who made the alleged “threat” on Facebook, nor has it notified YAL of the specific statement upon which the university has relied on so heavily despite YAL’s request for such information prior to the event.

BSU’s current policy appears to be “we will charge you a security fee when we believe that it is warranted.” Such a policy places boundless discretion in the hands of administrators, and is precisely the kind of policy that courts have soundly rejected.

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