- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Administrators at the University of Louisville have barred a student from contacting participants in an LGBTQ studies class where the student had distributed anti-gay literature.

Earlier, officials at the public college in Kentucky had allowed the unnamed student to distribute a tract denouncing same-sex marriage as antithetical to Christian values. But students and faculty said the student’s literature and “lurking” outside the classroom prompted safety concerns.

A university spokesman said in an email the “no-contact” rule was issued but added that the student has the right to hand out the pamphlets “in other places and to other people on campus.”

Martin Cochran, spokesman for the Kentucky Family Foundation, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the university’s reversal smacks of anti-Christian bias.

“When people look at differing opinions as being dangerous simply because they’re differing opinions, then we’ve got a problem,” Mr. Cochran said.

The university initially ruled the student had broken no rules after a campus life administrator met with the student after complaints, according to various news reports. After other students and faculty protested, officials reversed course and issued a “no-contact” order against the pamphleteer.

Under university rules, the “no-contact” order bars the student from contacting, even indirectly, students in the LGBTQ studies class.

In an op-ed in the Courier-Journal, Pan-African Studies Department Chairman Ricky Jones initially criticized the administration’s response, but he later cheered the action. He said the issue was never about free speech.

“This is a mind-blowing approach in an age of rampant campus shootings nationwide by people with the same profile as this student,” Mr. Jones wrote, referring to a shooting at Texas A&M earlier this month in which two students died.

The 36-page pamphlet is published by Living Waters Publications, an evangelical firm based in California. The document’s author professes to speak to people who are “gay, or maybe you are sympathetic toward homosexuality.”

Critics question whether the university’s decision to impose the “no-contact” rule violated the state’s campus free speech law that was enacted last year. That law, signed by then-Gov. Matt Bevin, bars “viewpoint discrimination” in how university resources are allocated and “free speech zones,” designated areas for spontaneous expression or demonstrations without permits.

“We’re looking into that now,” Mr. Cochran said. “We went to the trouble of supporting a bill in our state legislature last year that dealt with intellectual freedom on campus, and we haven’t determined this conclusively yet, but it looks like this action by the university might be in violation of that [law].”

Will Creeley, a vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a campus free speech advocacy group, said it’s unclear whether university officials acted reasonably in issuing the “no-contact” rule.

But Mr. Creeley said if officials are fearful of a student with a dissenting opinion, they should provide counter-messaging.

“Indeed, they [colleges] are uniquely equipped to do so, given their ready access to facilities, subject-matter faculty experts, and communication platforms,” he said.

Several states have enacted legislation to ban free speech zones on public campuses, including Kentucky, Alabama, Florida and South Dakota.

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