Georgia Tech had various speech code policies, which applied to students and student organizations and limited their ability to express views on topics that the Institute deemed “intolerant.” Georgia Tech also limited the locations on its huge campus where students could engage in free speech to certain tiny “speech zones” and refused to give student activity funds to student organizations that engaged in “religious activities.” The Institute also operated a program called “Safe Space," which actually promoted some religions over others while denigrating religions that believe that homosexual behavior is immoral. “Safe Space” went so far as to instruct students on the “correct” interpretation of the Bible with respect to homosexual behavior. On March 16, 2006, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Georgia Tech, alleging that the Institute’s policies violate the First Amendment.
WIN. After negotiation between the parties, on August 8, 2006 the district court ordered Georgia Tech to change its speech code policies and retained jurisdiction for five years to ensure the Institute’s compliance. On April 29, 2008, the court granted in part and denied in part both parties’ motions for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment to Ms. Sklar and Ms. Malhotra by declaring that Georgia Tech’s Safe Space program violated the Establishment Clause, but it granted summary judgment to the Institute on the speech zone and student fee claims based on legal technicalities. When the Institute later tried to claim in attorney fee litigation that the students had not been the prevailing parties, the court issued an order reiterating that the students had in fact prevailed on most of their claims and awarded ADF $206,131.73 in fees and costs.
This case was the first of its kind to obtain a ruling that a university indoctrination program violated the Establishment Clause because of denominational preference. The ruling can be used as precedent to challenge similar programs at other colleges and universities. The elimination of the speech code allows students to speak more freely on the Georgia Tech campus.
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