The University of Idaho barred three Christian law students from any contact with a fellow student who disagreed with their Biblical view of marriage and sexuality.
Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander received an order from the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations on April 25 after an argument with a female student, according to the complaint filed on that date. The Alliance Defending Freedom represents three students who claim that the school’s no-contact order violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and religious expression. A second motion has asked the court to overturn the school’s order and halt the investigation, as well as to rescind the order.
According to the complaint, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) law students attended an all-school “moment of community” gathering in early April with other CLS members. Anti-LGBTQ graffiti had been written on a whiteboard at another campus of the university, and students had gathered to voice their displeasure. Some CLS and non-CLS students attended the event to pray.
This question was brought up at the assembly by a third law student, who asked, “Why do we have to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman?” Miller argued that the Bible only supports this position. According to the complaint, CLS president Perlot wrote a note to one student shortly afterward, offering a meeting to discuss their differences. At an A.L.A. panel a few days later, the student, however, denounced CLS’ stance on the issue.
Some of the accusations made by the student, such as the claim that one of the CLS students told her to “go to hell,” were inaccurate, according to Alexander and another student who was present at the meeting. He described CLS and its religious beliefs as the target of the harshest anti-CLS sentiment he had witnessed on campus. It was difficult for the group to be recognized as a legitimate student organization.
The school issued no-contact orders three days later. The students who were accused claim they were not informed of the allegations or given an opportunity to respond. According to the Title IX policy and the Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Policies, three CLS members are prohibited from any contact with their accuser and are ordered to sit on either the left or right-hand side of any classroom. The rules are in effect year-round, regardless of where students attend school.
Historically, no-contact orders have been issued when there have been serious accusations of sexual harassment. But Alliance Defending Freedom Counsel Mathew Hoffmann said that they are being used more and more to silence people who disagree.
“These policies are so broad that they give unbridled discretion to university administrators to censor viewpoints that they don’t like, which is exactly what happened here,” Hoffmann said. He added that the policies go far beyond what federal law requires.
ADF handled a similar case in which a Southern Illinois University no-contact order was issued to a student after classmates complained her views were not welcome or appreciated. Following a letter from ADF, the university ended the investigation.
Hoffmann says that neither ADF nor the University of Idaho has answered his motion.